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April 20, 2018

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.

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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.

See more here: 

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

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

Federal government abandons NSW over Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation threat, says Labor

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Federal government abandons NSW over Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation threat, says Labor

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.











Visit site – 

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

Asbestos: the hidden danger lurking in your backyard

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It was the prospect of making hundreds of thousands of dollars’ profit that led to the illegal dumping operation.

If the contaminated soil had been dumped properly, the cost at an approved waste facility would have been $269,952. This is based on a NSW waste levy of $70.30 per tonne for contaminated materials.

The man who organised the trucks, Julian Ashmore, pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court in Sydney to illegal dumping, and admitted that he knew what he was doing was wrong and that Mr Zizza had no idea what was happening.

He told Environmental Protection Agency investigators and the Land and Environment Court that he took part in the dumping because he was scared for his life and that of his family if he did not comply with the instigator of the illegal scheme.

There is a lot of money to be made by bypassing the regulations and quietly getting rid of the contaminated waste. Many argue this is a driving factor behind the continued practice of illegal dumping.

Illegal dumping of asbestos has been a major problem around Australia particularly in NSW. The EPA has set up illegal dumping squads to try to stop rogue operators.

The EPA has also given almost $800,000 to 24 local government areas to run a pilot program called the Householders Asbestos Disposal Scheme. It is a 12-month trial which will run until next July allowing householders to deposit their asbestos waste at the council-approved facility for free. However the results won’t be known until late next year.

Asbestos products were totally banned in 2003 but the health-related problems from breathing in fibres are continuing as more asbestos is found in old homes, work sites and in old dumping grounds.

Inhaling the fibres can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer which can take up to 40 years to develop and for which there is no known cure.

The Australian Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA) has warned that one in every three houses in Australia built before 1982 has asbestos in it and thousands of workshops and homes have been built with asbestos roofs, floors and walls.

The foundation president Barry Robson applauds the move by councils to take asbestos waste for free but he says it has not totally eradicated the problem and there has been a number of dumping incidents that he knows of recently in southern Sydney.

Although things are improving, he says, the culture is slow to change.

“What we would like to see is like they are doing in Western Australia – having asbestos free days at all local tips,” says Mr Robson.

A 2012 review of the waste levy by KPMG found that there was no “conclusive evidence” that linked the levy to illegal dumping. The report found most illegal dumping was done by householders renovating on a small scale.

In a state government response to the widespread problem of asbestos, a cross-agency organisation, the Heads of Asbestos Co-ordination Authority (HACA), was established and has been working on a statewide plan targeting priority areas of research, risk communication, prevention and co-ordination to ensure safe management of asbestos and try to reduce the high incidence of asbestos-related disease.

HACA has become involved in co-ordinating responses to high-profile asbestos incidents including Mr Fluffy, the former contractor that used asbestos fibres for insulation in the roofs of many homes in Canberra and parts of NSW. It also looks at major natural disasters which cause widespread asbestos contamination such as the Blue Mountains fires last year. The chairman of HACA, Peter Dunphy, says his group has shown the value of cross-agency collaboration and has developed strong relationships with national and state government agencies, local councils, other key stakeholders and the public.

Mr Robson says new protocols which have been put in place by HACA are working well, as was demonstrated during the fires in Coonabarabran, Kiama and the Blue Mountains.

“It all came together with the agencies,” he said. “It was brilliant. In the Blue Mountains they moved 40,000 tonnes of suspected contaminated rubble. Things like that have never been done before.”

But while government responses to asbestos contamination issues are improving, the health-related issues are continuing to rise with the much-talked about third wave of asbestos disease victims emerging in Australia – a phenomenon which has not yet peaked. The first wave were workers who were mining the fibres and plant workers turning it into a range of building products.

The latest research shows that an increasing number of younger women are part of that wave and Associate Professor Rick van der Zwan, from Southern Cross University, said the rate of diagnosis of asbestos-related disease was increasing. Younger people are contracting the disease after being exposed as children to their fathers’ work outfits and as a result of family home renovations since the 1970s.

A parliamentary inquiry has been set up to investigate the use of asbestos by Mr Fluffy.

The cross-party inquiry will try to establish how many homes may have been affected. Mr Fluffy asbestos was pumped into roof spaces of houses in the ACT and some NSW areas in the 1960s and 1970s. A Commonwealth clean-up program was established in the 1980s and 1990s to try to remove the asbestos from ACT houses, but houses in NSW did not get the same assistance.

The government is now offering free testing and advice, during the next 12 months, on risk control for anyone who suspects they may have the Mr Fluffy product in their home.

However, Mr Robson says he has been receiving worried calls from home owners too scared to even reveal what suburb they live in.

He has urged them to come forward and get the testing. Residents can contact WorkCover NSW on 13 10 50 to arrange testing.

Meanwhile, Mr Zizza says that three years later the situation has not been resolved and the contaminated soil remains on his property. He says although he is innocent, his land has been ruined and he has fears for the health and safety of the families with children who live nearby.











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Asbestos: the hidden danger lurking in your backyard

Loose asbestos home insulation fears

Deadly loose asbestos present in a large number of houses in Canberra may also be in some south-west homes.

The Canberra-based Mr Fluffy company insulated about 1000 homes in the national capital with the product in the 1960s and ’70s. It was applied by blowing the loose fibres into roof and wall spaces.

Despite a removal program asbestos fibres have now been found to have infiltrated living spaces, posing a health hazard and leading to houses being abandoned.

A long-time south-west resident has recalled there was a Mr Fluffy agent operating in the Warrnambool area about the same time.

The Standard has since contacted a number of long-time residents and confirmed there was an agent operating in the area.

One recalled a door-to-door salesman calling at his parents’ Grassmere farm trying to sell the product. They didn’t, but said it was installed in at least one house in the Grassmere area.

It is unknown whether the Mr Fluffy businesses were linked or if the product was the same as that installed in Canberra houses.

Other blow-in products have been used, including shredded paper treated with a fire retardant chemical, and wool.

South-west asbestos removal professionals said they had not encountered loose-fill asbestos in the region.

Warrnambool licensed asbestos removalist Andrew Morrison said he had not come across the Mr Fluffy product in the seven years he’s been in the business, or in the couple of years he worked for another operator.

“I have seen some blow-in products but I haven’t seen asbestos,” Mr Morrison said.

“That doesn’t mean it wasn’t used in the area.”

Fourteen NSW councils are also investigating if the product was used in their areas.

Original source:

Loose asbestos home insulation fears

NSW launches investigation of &#39;Mr Fluffy&#39; asbestos

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For the 13 homes already identified, authorities will conduct detailed testing, including air monitoring and possibly asking householders to wear monitors to test the air they are breathing as they go about day-to-day tasks in their homes.

Owners of homes built before 1980 in the 14 local government areas will be able to request a free assessment over the next 12 months, to have their ceilings checked for asbestos insulation.

The chairman of the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities, Peter Dunphy, said the testing offer might well be taken up by thousands of households, but he didn’t expect to find widespread use of the insulation.

“So far we don’t think this going to be very widespread,” he said. “We’re not really anticipating a much bigger number than we’ve already encountered, but we’ll wait to see what comes out of the investigation and what comes out of the samples that come forward.”

He conceded that some homeowners with the insulation might not come forward, but said authorities could not force themselves into people’s homes. They hoped that by offering free assessments they would encourage anyone who suspected the presence of the material to make contact.

Mr Dunphy said the Canberra experience showed removing it had not been effective (the asbestos was removed from the Canberra homes 20 years ago, but fibres have now been found in walls and elsewhere), so containment or demolition were the options facing NSW.

The survey area is highly selective. It doesn’t include all south-eastern areas, but covers the Geater Hume, Berrigan and Wagga Wagga council areas near the Victorian border, the Bega Valley, Snowy River, Cooma Monaro and Eurobodalla council areas on the south coast and the Snowy Mountains, the Palerang (including Braidwood and Bungendore), Queanbeyan, Yass Valley and Goulburn councils around Canberra, the Young council area further west, and Ku-ring-gai and North Sydney councils.

Asked how the areas were chosen, NSW authorities said the decision was made on the basis of information provided by the ACT.

An investigator will be appointed to trawl through state and local government records and follow up anecdotal information to track down any evidence of Mr Fluffy or other loose-fill asbestos companies installing the material in other homes in the 14 areas.

It is clear Mr Fluffy operated outside Canberra, and NSW Health believes a company other than Mr Fluffy may have been operating in the south-west of the state – although this could also have been an offshoot of the Canberra-based company run by Dirk Jansen, colloquially known as Mr Fluffy.

A federal government report from 1968 refers to Sydney company Bowsers Asphalt installing the product over 13 years, but authorities believe Bowsers was using a sprayed form of asbestos as a fire retardant in commercial buildings.

Anecdotal reports suggest the material might have been used in Wollongong in the 1970s, but Wollongong is not part of the survey area.

Mr Perrottet would not reveal the cost of the survey, testing and investigation, but confirmed it was being paid by the NSW government.

Mr Dunphy said similar testing of affected homes had been done in 1993, including monitoring the air householders were breathing over eight hours, and it had not found asbestos levels higher than control houses.

Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall welcomed the announcement as a step in the right direction. He has suggested as many as 60 homes in Queanbeyan could contain the asbestos, based on the proportion of Canberra homes affected, and said he hoped the new investigation would identify all affected properties.

Yass council director of planning and environment Chris Berry said the news was welcome, allowing residents to have their homes checked.

“At least then people know, rather than at the present time when they’re completely in the dark about whether they have a problem or they don’t have a problem,” he said. “The challenge is if there is a problem how do you manage that problem with that particular family.”

Yass council has written to the single house it knows of this week, alerting the owner to the presence of the insulation.











See the original article here:

NSW launches investigation of &#39;Mr Fluffy&#39; asbestos

Health effects of Mr Fluffy asbestos exposure to be studied

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Asbestos was in the air everyone breathed all the time, given its use in so many building materials, he said. Until recently, every time a bus used its brakes a burst of asbestos fibres was released because brake pads had been made of asbestos. Biopsies of lungs suggested asbestos was present in the lungs of most Australians, he said.

While low exposures could cause disease, the risk increased with intensity of exposure or time, he said. Short, sharp exposures such as during home renovations increased risk, as did lower exposures over a long period. When he asked how many people at Sunday’s forum had done home renovations, most put up their hands.

But even with high exposures, most people would not get sick, Dr Pengilley said, pointing out that the vast majority of people in the Western Australia asbestos mining town, Wittenoom, never developed an asbestos-related disease.

Among home renovators exposed to asbestos, five in 100,000 people a year developed mesothelioma after 35 years, he said. Among Wittenoom residents, the annual risk of developing mesothelioma was 26 in 100,000. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs. Two Mr Fluffy residents have been diagnosed with the disease this year; one recently died.

Asbestosis is another asbestos-caused disease, but Dr Pengilley said he did not expect people living in Mr Fluffy homes to develop the condition, which was marked by scarring on the lungs and breathing problems. He said asbestosis was generally seen in people who had been exposed to a lot of asbestos.

The residents at the forum questioned officials about risks to their health, both physical and psychological, and the potential for the loss of their homes and “everything they’ve worked for”.

Some urged fellow residents to stay calm given the low risk, while others warned against complacency.

The forum heard concerns about the quality of asbestos assessments and the difficulty of notifying tradespeople, family and friends who had been in contaminated homes.

The head of thoracic medicine at Canberra Hospital, Mark Hurwitz, said experts were divided on the value of having a chest X-ray. But in his view it was worthwhile as a baseline with which to compare health problems that occurred down the track.

Chest X-rays were of low-dose radiation – the same as flying to Brisbane – he said. But he stressed they had no value for predicting whether you would get sick later.











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Health effects of Mr Fluffy asbestos exposure to be studied