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August 19, 2018

Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

The demolition of Mr Fluffy asbestos homes across Canberra is expected to get under way after June this year with more than half already acquired by the ACT government.

Acting Chief Minister Simon Corbell announced on Friday more than half of all homeowners had accepted offers made through the buyback program, four months before the scheme closes.

Already 511 offers have been accepted from the 1021 affected properties in the ACT.

Mr Corbell said the latest results showed many affected homeowners were taking the opportunity to move on to another property.

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“I encourage homeowners who are still considering whether or not to enter the buyback program to discuss their individual circumstances with the Asbestos Response Taskforce around what support can be provided,” he said in a statement.

The government now owns 131 properties and is overseeing security and maintenance.

A pilot demolition program of a small number of affected properties will start in late March to confirm procurement, demolition and communications processes.

Two of the properties included in the pilot will be public housing.

“The Mr Fluffy response is not only an ACT government, but an ACT community response,” Mr Corbell said.

“It is an issue affecting 58 suburbs across the territory and has a cost to our community of at least $400 million, even after the resale of remediated blocks. It is, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the ACT for years to come.”

This week Chief Minister Andrew Barr said some compulsory acquisitions could be required if affected homeowners decided not to join the buyback scheme before June 30.

He warned homeowners they would not receive a better offer as a result of not signing up.

Mr Corbell said the taskforce would be working closely with the community ahead of the demolition program to ensure safety and security.

“Reducing the impact to the community through efficient scheduling of demolition works will also be a paramount consideration,” he said.

Tenders for the demolitions are being finalised, a spokeswoman for the Asbestos Taskforce said last week.

The government has confirmed it owns affected houses in the following suburbs: Forrest, Ainslie, Downer, Griffith, Hackett, Narrabundah, O’Connor, Watson, Yarralumla, Kambah, Wanniassa, Chapman, Chifley, Curtin, Duffy, Farrer, Fisher, Garran, Holder, Hughes, Lyons, Mawson, Pearce, Rivett, Stirling, Torrens, Waramanga, Weston, Aranda, Charnwood, Cook, Evatt, Flynn, Giralang, Higgins, Holt, Latham, Macgregor, Macquarie, Melba, Page, Scullin, Spence, Weetangera.

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Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

Asbestos found in NSW home as free testing widens in Mr Fluffy saga

The first property to test positive for loose-fill asbestos as part of the NSW government’s free testing program has been identified.

The property is located within the Berrigan Shire Council area, an agricultural area in the southern Riverina – halfway between Albury and Echuca.

It is the first home to provide a positive result since the NSW government began offering free voluntary roof insulation testing in August last year. So far, 630 tests across the state have been completed. The Berrigan property brings to 58 the number of NSW homes found to contain loose-fill asbestos. These include 14 houses and one block of 38 units in Queanbeyan, a home in the Yass Valley, one in Bungendore, one in Lithgow, one in Parramatta and one in Manly.

Three other affected homes have been demolished. All those properties were identified via historical records, prior to the positive Berrigan test.

Last August the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an independent investigation into the number of NSW properties affected by loose-fill asbestos supplied by two known companies, the ACT’s Mr Fluffy and a second contractor Bowsers Asphalt, which was targeting large non-residential buildings in NSW.

A spokesman for the NSW government said a technical assessment would now be conducted on the positive asbestos sample to try and determine its origin.

A total of 1752 properties across 26 NSW Local Government Areas have registered for the free testing program which will run until August.

The newly discovered home will also be subject to an asbestos assessment to advise owners whether the living spaces are adequately sealed and whether “asbestos pathways (are) appropriately controlled”.

The Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities said “testing of homes with loose-fill asbestos insulation has shown that exposure is likely to be very low if the asbestos is undisturbed and remains sealed off at all points where entry of asbestos into living areas can occur, including cornices, architraves, around vents, light fittings, manholes and the tops of cupboards.”

NSW residents who are living in homes built before 1980 can register online or call Service NSW to see if they are eligible to have their property tested.

In December, the NSW government announced an inquiry into the potential demolition of loose asbestos-affected homes, in line with action taken by the ACT government.

NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet also announced a financial assistance package for NSW residents who were confirmed to have Mr Fluffy in their homes, providing the same levels of assistance as in the ACT.

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Asbestos found in NSW home as free testing widens in Mr Fluffy saga

Tough new ACT goverment rules for asbestos removers and assessors start to come into play

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe. Photo: Karleen Minney

The ACT government’s new rules for builders and asbestos handlers began to be introduced on Thursday, making formal training mandatory for those taking part on the territory’s mammoth battle with asbestos.

After a year of controversy over the handling of loose asbestos fibres in the capital’s 1021 Mr Fluffy homes, the new rules were endorsed in industry codes on Thursday after they were first announced in November.

The key changes close up more loopholes in the ACT laws, allowing unlicensed people to handle asbestos.

“In the other states and territories [in some specific cases] it can be dealt with by a ‘competent person’ and we have removed that and in our case it must be done by a licensed assessor,” Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said.

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Another of these loopholes is one that allowed builders to remove up to 10-square-metres of bonded asbestos from homes from the start of 2015.

The old rules were designed so builders could deal with small jobs such as removing asbestos wallboard for bathroom renovations.

The removal of bonded asbestos will now have to be done by a licensed asbestos removalist.

The changes also lift the qualifications and training required to assess and remove asbestos.

Applicants for licences will have additional requirements to apply for and keep licences.

Mr McCabe said the introduction would improve worker protections. “I would call it Work Health and Safety regulations plus, we’ve taken the ones from around the country and strengthened them in some key areas largely because of our experiences with Mr Fluffy,” Mr McCabe said.

This also means that from January 1, the ACT was brought into line with other states and territories, making it easier for outside workers and companies to work in the ACT.

This is because the rules move asbestos handling to the Work Health and Safety Act which Mr McCabe said has now been harmonised around the country.

“So it brings our regulations and our code of practise in line, and it makes it easier for us to regulator assessors and removalists who come in from interstate,” he said.

Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Mick Gentleman is expected to endorse the two improved codes on Friday.

He said the codes would “provide practical advice” to industry on meeting higher asbestos standards.

“The new safety laws focus on equipping industry professionals, regulators and the community with the information, education and oversight needed to prevent people being exposed to asbestos,” Mr Gentleman said.

The crackdown on handling of asbestos in homes will come into play at various points from January 1.

Back in October Employment Minister Eric Abetz announced that the Commonwealth would lend the ACT government government $1 billion to to buy back and demolish the homes containing Mr Fluffy asbestos.

Two hundred homes are set to be demolished a year for the next five years from January 2015, and soft furnishings in houses will also have to be destroyed.

See the original article here – 

Tough new ACT goverment rules for asbestos removers and assessors start to come into play

NSW Government should buy and demolish 5300 homes with Mr Fluffy insulation: report

Moving on: Chris and Charmaine Sims with their son Zac and daughter Alma. They are leaving Mr Fluffy behind after buying a new home in Kambah in the ACT.

Moving on: Chris and Charmaine Sims with their son Zac and daughter Alma. They are leaving Mr Fluffy behind after buying a new home in Kambah in the ACT. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

More than 5300 NSW homes may be riddled with deadly Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation and the state government should demolish and buy affected properties, a parliamentary report has found.

The findings, unanimously supported by government, Labor and crossbench MPs, leave the Baird government potentially facing a $5 billion bill should it follow the Australian Capital Territory government’s lead and buy back the homes.

Mr Fluffy is the former contractor that used loose-fill asbestos fibres for roof insulation in homes in Canberra and parts of NSW in the 1960s and 1970s. There are fears that the fibres pose acute health risks.

NSW authorities are investigating how many properties contain loose-fill insulation. The report said 59 homes have been identified so far “with the potential for there to be many hundreds more”.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers has been commissioned to investigate the extent of Mr Fluffy fibres in NSW. An interim report said that, based on the firm’s installation capacity, up to 5376 homes may contain the insulation.

Using a different calculation, based on the distance between Canberra and affected NSW council areas, the assessors found up to 1110 homes may be affected. Their report said the discrepancy between the figures highlighted the need for further investigation.

The parliamentary report condemned “historic inaction of successive NSW governments in responding to this issue”. The gravity of evidence received by the inquiry promoted the report to be released two months earlier than expected.

It found the presence of loose-fill asbestos fibres rendered a home “ultimately uninhabitable”, posing risks to residents, visitors and the public.

The report recommended a statewide buy-back and demolition scheme for all affected residences, based on the ACT model.

The federal government is providing a concessional loan of up to $1 billion to the ACT to buy back and demolish about 1000 houses affected by Mr Fluffy. The NSW government may face a bill five times that, if the cost is extrapolated to the PricewaterhouseCoopers worst-case estimate.

The federal government has refused financial assistance to NSW, saying legal responsibility for affected homes lies with the state government.

The parliamentary report said owners of Mr Fluffy homes should be legally required to disclose that their home is affected, so prospective buyers are informed.

It also called for affected NSW properties to be tagged to protect tradespeople and emergency services workers. In the case where home occupants wished to immediately leave their homes, financial assistance for crisis accommodation and short-term remediation work should be provided, the report said.

Free ceiling inspections are presently available for NSW properties built before 1980 in areas thought to be affected. The report said such testing should be mandatory – potentially involving tens of thousands of homes.

Twenty-six NSW council areas have been identified as potentially affected by loose-fill asbestos. In Sydney, they include Manly, Parramatta, North Sydney, Ku-ring-gai, Bankstown, Warringah and The Hills councils.

A spokesman for Finance and Services Minister Dominic Perrottet said the government would consider the report.

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NSW Government should buy and demolish 5300 homes with Mr Fluffy insulation: report

Bungendore family face ruin after their horrific Fluffy discovery

Eddie Casey and his partner Dale Freestone with their children Grace Casey, 1, and Leon Casey, 3, outside their home in Bungendore which contains Mr Fluffy asbestos.

Eddie Casey and his partner Dale Freestone with their children Grace Casey, 1, and Leon Casey, 3, outside their home in Bungendore which contains Mr Fluffy asbestos. Photo: Melissa Adams

Canberra couple Eddie Casey and Dale Freestone were well aware of Mr Fluffy asbestos when it came time for them to buy a home in August.

That’s why they hired a licensed asbestos assessor from Canberra to fully check the small Bungendore cottage in which they wanted to raise their two children.

When the report came back, all clear for signs of Mr Fluffy’s distinctive loose amosite asbestos, the sale proceeded and the couple crossed the NSW border from their rented Garran home to start enjoying country life with Leon, 3, Grace, 1.

That’s why a letter last month from WorkCover NSW informing them their new cottage contained Mr Fluffy came as an almighty shock.

“I thought it was a mistake in the paperwork,” said Eddie, a 25-year-old landscape architecture student at the University of Canberra.

He asked the Palerang Council to check its records and hired another A-class licensed asbestos assessor from Canberra, Robson Environmental, to urgently test the house.

Devastatingly for the family, council records confirmed that the home had tested positive for Mr Fluffy during a voluntary dust sampling program conducted by the Queanbeyan City Council in 1999.

The Robson report further confirmed amosite in the hallway and master bedroom and in visible patches stuck to the timber joists under a second layer of non-asbestos insulation in the ceiling.

Mr Casey and Ms Freestone are now receiving legal advice.

The couple have found another rental home in Bungendore and are moving out of their cottage.

They are also facing financial ruin, having scraped together the money for the deposit on their home. Now they face rent and all associated costs while paying back a mortgage on a house in which they can no longer live.

The family have decided to come out publicly to illustrate the complete lack of a safety net for Mr Fluffy-affected homes in NSW. They note that if they had bought a similar home back in Canberra, they would be entitled to immediate financial help worth $14,000 and be offered a buyback of their property – almost certainly at the price they paid.

John Barilaro, the NSW Nationals member for Monaro and a member of the NSW Joint Select Committee on Loose Fill Asbestos, said this family’s case was a “worst nightmare” of NSW Mr Fluffy discoveries.

But Mr Barilaro expressed confidence that the NSW Government was poised to financially help affected families consistent with the aid rolled out by the ACT government – $10,000 for each family and $2000 per dependent child.

Given the urgency of the Mr Fluffy crisis, the committee was also bringing forward its reporting date from February to just before Christmas.

Mr Casey said: “Although we have a very uncertain new year ahead of us, it is important the NSW government provide us with the same immediate financial assistance as ACT Fluffy residents, as it would go some way to helping us regather ourselves and look forward to Christmas as a family.

“Long term, we want the NSW Government to announce the same outcome as ACT residents, for the buy-back and demolition of all Fluffy-affected houses.”

It is still unclear how many homes are affected by Mr Fluffy across NSW, apart from the 11 homes confirmed in Queanbeyan, one in Yass and one in Bungendore. NSW WorkCover is continuing to offer free assessments to suspect homes.

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Bungendore family face ruin after their horrific Fluffy discovery

Googong and Tralee the winners from ACT asbestos Fluffy buyback, says real Estate Institute

The Inquiry into the proposed Appropriation (Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Eradication) Bill 2014-15. Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Shane<br />
Rattenbury, centre, faces questions along with other personnel.” title=”” src=”/content/dam/images/1/1/w/5/7/h/image.related.articleLeadwide.620×349.11w4n8.png/1417154987854.jpg”/>
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                                The Inquiry into the proposed Appropriation (Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Eradication) Bill 2014-15. Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Shane<br />
Rattenbury, centre, faces questions along with other personnel.<cite><i> Photo: Graham Tidy</i></cite>
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<p>The new NSW suburbs of Googong and Tralee will be the winners from the Mr Fluffy buyback, the head of the Real Estate Institute of the ACT, Ron Bell, has warned, with little land available in the ACT.</p>
<p>Also on Friday, an inquiry into the Fluffy buyback and demolition heard that about 300,000 cubic metres of asbestos-contaminated material from Fluffy homes is expected to be dumped at the West Belconnen tip, with back-up plans to accommodate a lot more.</p>
<p>Thought is also being given to the future of the dump site, with a possibility it will become sportsgrounds, Territories and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury said. Asked for detail later, he also raised the possibility of a solar farm on the site, but stressed they were simply ideas and no decisions had been made about the long-term future of the site.</p>
<p>Mr Bell said it would be Canberra’s loss if homeowners bought in Googong and Tralee, near Queanbeyan, with the loss of rates and taxes across the border, but people wanting to build a new home were left with little choice.</p>
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<p>“The process will be quicker and land is going to be cheaper,” he said, with NSW planning and development moving faster and few blocks available in the ACT, despite the fact that the stamp duty waiver will not be available to people who buy in NSW.</p>
<p>“You can’t go out and buy a block of land [in the ACT],” he said. “The builders are screaming about that sort of thing.”</p>
<p>Mr Bell, speaking to the inquiry, also suggested Fluffy owners would head for retirement villages and apartments, because of the cost, the lack of land and their stage in life.</p>
<p>Treasurer Andrew Barr told the inquiry the government would release 4000 new house sites next year, and between 3500 and 4000 in each year beyond that. That was an increase from the underlying demand for 2700 to 3000 new sites a year, he said.</p>
<p>He also predicted the influx of Fluffy homeowners would not have a big impact on the real-estate market, given it had been flat for three or four years and was at the mercy largely of Commonwealth job cuts, with more cuts expected at the federal government’s mid-year update in February. </p>
<p>The inquiry heard that officials were expecting 300 cubic metres of material to be dumped at West Belconnen from each of the 1021 Fluffy homes, but the site had capacity for more – up to 480,000 cubic metres.</p>
<p>Questioned about safety, Mr Rattenbury said the material would be secured as it was delivered by truck, then 30 centimetres of cover would be added at the end of each day, and the site would be capped at the end of the demolition. Officials were reviewing the protocols to check they were sufficient for the large-scale dumping.</p>
<p>“There is clearly no intention for asbestos to be blowing around West Belconnen,” he said.</p>
<p>The executive director of the directorate’s business enterprises division, Phillip Perram, said the material would arrive in a bonded state, with a superglue-like material used to bind it before it was loaded on to trucks, giving it the integrity necessary to stop it blowing around.</p>
<p>Labor backbencher Mary Porter raised concerns about contamination of stormwater and groundwater. Mr Perram responded that asbestos fibres were “literally trapped” by the soil and would not enter groundwater. Stormwater was not an issue because the site would be capped. He did not provide details on the question of stormwater contamination during the demolition, given water would be used to damp dust while houses were being demolished.</p>
<p>He suggested the dump site might one day be used for playing fields and walking tracks, a suggestion backed by Mr Rattenbury, who said it wasn’t so much a hole that was being created at West Belconnen as a “land mass” that would be shaped depending on future uses, such as sportsgrounds.</p>
<p>Taskforce head Andrew Kefford said the asbestos removed from the ceilings of Mr Fluffy homes 20 years ago had been dumped at Palmerston, in Gungahlin, at what were now the Gungaderra grasslands.</p>
<p>Fluffy Owners and Residents Action group spokesperson Brianna Heseltine said owners were confused about the evolving advice on whether contents were safe to take with them, with conflicting advice from the Asbestos Taskforce and removalists. <a href=The taskforce is leaving decisions largely in the hands of owners, beyond telling them they should not touch anything that has been stored in the subfloor or ceiling space, or in contaminated cupboards. They have also been told that soft furnishings, bedding, linen, soft toys and clothing stored in a contaminated area should be abandoned.

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Googong and Tralee the winners from ACT asbestos Fluffy buyback, says real Estate Institute

Work safety watchdog rejects union's asbestos claims

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“My belief is we have a competent group of removalists at the moment, there have been issues from time to time, but it’s not like there’s some widespread deficiency in the skill set,” Mr McCabe said.

“It won’t be like the pink batts [home insulation rollout] work, because pretty much everyone can do that work, where the drive was to get the money out the door for economic stimulus.

“The stress here is to get the money to owners, not removalists.”

CFMEU ACT branch secretary Dean Hall said it was critical the ACT government scrutinised applicants and spent what was needed to ensure the highest standard of removalist work.

“Everyone in the industry knows that there are some very problematic individuals and companies in the industry,” Mr Hall said.

“If it goes to an aggressive competitive tender process it’s going to serve the cowboys.”

Mr Hall said he was aware of removalists on a number of sites in recent years who had been seen, and in at least one case photographed, in asbestos-related exclusion zones without wearing the correct respiratory gear.

He also raised concerns about the alleged failure of some removalists to decontaminate before eating or having a cigarette.

Mr McCabe said WorkSafe had taken action in relation to a 2012 incident captured in CFMEU photographs, but there were only a small number of cases where removalists were proven to have the done the wrong thing.

He said recently announced restrictions and direct oversight of removalists by WorkSafe would ensure wider scrutiny.

Fyshwick asbestos assessor Peter Hengst said he had found no problems with ACT removalists and did not know of any local “cowboys”.

“Because I’m an assessor I often do inspections for other companies, and I find their standards pretty good,” Mr Hengst said.

Now working for Ozbestos, he began as an asbestos removalist in 1985 and became an assessor in 2007.

He said he welcomed moves to strengthen Worksafe oversight, after now-stark Fluffy memories from his past days as an electrician.

“I remember crawling through roofs thinking this [stuff] is brilliant, it’s not itchy.”

There were 70 Class A asbestos removalist licences this week, the only ACT licence which allows the removal of friable asbestos, including that used as loose-fill insulation, but Mr McCabe said the number of removalists who operated in Canberra was “barely in the double figures”.

He said he would be surprised if there were 20-30 used across the clean-up and demolition of the 1021 Mr Fluffy homes across the next five years.

“We’ll have a very close look at anyone we’re not familiar with,” he said.

Tell us your thoughts: Email: sunday@canberratimes.com.au











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Work safety watchdog rejects union's asbestos claims

ACT Government bans builders from removing asbestos

ACT Government bans builders from removing asbestos

ACT News

Date

The ACT Government has moved to close a loophole that has allowed builders to remove up to 10-square-metres of bonded asbestos from homes, a rule the Government says has been widely misunderstood and abused.

From January 1, any asbestos removal, including bonded asbestos sheeting, must be done by licensed asbestos removalists, who will now come under the control of Worksafe.

Builders were never allowed under the law to remove even 10-square-metres without asbestos training, but Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said the training requirement was the most widely flouted.

“The 10-square-metre rule is actually significantly misunderstood. Tradesmen think it means they can remove up to 10-square-metres of asbestos without controls, that’s not true,” he said.

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ACT Government bans builders from removing asbestos

Asbestos homes compensation agreed

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Asbestos homes compensation agreed

Asbestos bombshell: Govt knew about Mr Fluffy risk 25 years ago

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Professor Bruce Armstrong, then Director and Professor of Epidemiology and Cancer Research at the NHMRC, wrote to the ACT Administration to “confirm and amplify” advice he had delivered to its Asbestos Taskforce which was handling the removal program pre self-Government.

Professor Armstrong acknowledged at that time it was already clear that Mr Fluffy had escaped from some roof cavities and had entered living spaces of a number of Canberra homes.

Using guidelines developed by the United States Research Council Committee on Nonoccupational Risk of Asbestiform Fibres, Professor Armstrong said the risk of mesothelioma or lung cancer for an average Australian over a lifetime was 26 deaths per million people.

But the risk to people living in homes with Mr Fluffy insulation skyrocketed to 650 deaths per million people.

“That is about 1 in 1000 lifetime residents would die in consequence of their exposure to asbestos in one of the affected houses. It should be noted that the National Research Council’s estimates were based on exposure to mixed asbestos fibres including chrysotile which carries a lower risk of mesothelioma than does amosite. Thus the risk in the Canberra houses would be likely to be greater than the above estimates would suggest.”

Professor Armstrong recommended the expeditious removal of the asbestos “from roof spaces as well as whatever asbestos had accumulated in the living spaces”. He also noted that residents would experience anxiety if they believed themselves to be exposed to asbestos.

In a separate report prepared by the former Chairman of the Occupational Health Guides Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council Dr David Douglas, children were a primary concern in terms of the need to remove Mr Fluffy from homes.

“Children are at are at particular risk because of the susceptibility of developing lung tissue to damage; and because of the long latent period during which changes can occur,” said Dr Douglas, a former Head of Scientific Policy for the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive.

“In spite of difficulties in quantification, I would expect to see a measurable excess of asbestos-related disease in the occupiers,” he said.

Dr Douglas said the Mr Fluffy issue was “a public health asbestos problem far greater than any documented elsewhere in the world” and the levels of exposure to deadly fibres by the men who were hired to install Mr Fluffy by operator Dirk Jansen – including his sons – were “likely to have been as high as any ever recorded”.

Dr Douglas noted that occupiers of Mr Fluffy homes he had interviewed had “expressed anxiety not only about suffering an asbestos disease, but also the fear of asbestos disease and about their concern and frustration at their housing predicament.”

“Anxiety and fear are major causes of disability. The levels of both will rise the longer people continue to live in the asbestos insulated homes.”

Fluffy Owners and Residents’ Action Group founder Ms Heseltine said the passage of time had done nothing to change the nature of these risks faced by more than 1000 homeowners.

“I don’t see too many options here for the ACT, NSW and Commonwealth governments. They either decide that there is an acceptable death toll among the Mr Fluffy owner and resident population, or they come together to eliminate the risk.”

She said the 25 year-old advice was particularly heartbreaking in the case of Queanbeyan homes, which have never been remediated.

“It defies belief that the NSW Government has not revised its position that fibres do not pose a threat if left undisturbed. Dr Douglas’ report clearly states that material can escape through the tiles, and that wind and water damage and fires could result in high levels of exposure”, she said.

Ms Heseltine said anxiety and stress levels were “off the charts” in the owner and resident population in Canberra and Queanbeyan as people awaited a government decision on their homes.











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Asbestos bombshell: Govt knew about Mr Fluffy risk 25 years ago