25 February 2005

Asbestos Removal at the Vienna International Centre Proceeding Smoothly

VIENNA, 25 February (UN Information Service) -- The asbestos removal project at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) is proceeding on schedule, and with no problems.

“The removal of asbestos from the Vienna International Centre is a precautionary move,” said Dr. John Doherty, Medical Director of the VIC Medical Service. He added that the United Nations organizations considered the health of the staff the highest priority, and undertook comprehensive health checks and screening for staff.

He also pointed out that there had been no untoward incidents or “mystery deaths”. “Diseases caused by asbestosis are characteristic and readily diagnosed. The Medical Service has not seen any evidence of such diseases,” said Dr. Doherty.

The asbestos removal project is being carried out in cooperation with the Austrian Government. IAKW (Internationales Amtsitz und Konferenzzentrum Wien) is operating in the VIC on behalf of the Austrian Government: all technical and financial arrangements are being managed by them. The companies subcontracted to do the work report on a regular basis to the IAKW, the VIC and to an Austrian supervisory agency, in order to strictly verify that standard procedures are followed.

The staff at the VIC was extensively briefed before the asbestos removal programme began, in cooperation with the Staff Councils.

The project is being implemented in such a way that there are always empty buffer floors between occupied floors and floors under construction to ensure that contamination does not spread to staff members. The areas under construction are being kept under negative pressure: air flows into the working space and is sucked out through filters to the outside. Frequent and stringent air quality measurements have proven that no fibres have entered the air system.

Staff has been moved to specially-constructed container-quarters beside the landmark high-rise buildings of the VIC during the removal project.

The Vienna International Centre was opened in 1979. More than 4,000 staff from all over the world are employed there.

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