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June 24, 2018

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











Continue at source:  

Work safety watchdog rejects union's asbestos claims

Cancer link to two asbestos factories

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Queensland Health’s executive director of the Health Protection Unit, Sophie Dwyer, confirmed the “raw data” from the Queensland Cancer Registry showed 20 people who had contracted mesothelioma lived within a 1.5-kilometre radius from the two plants.

However, the risk from asbestos from Gaythorne’s former asbestos history is now low, according to Ms Dwyer.

She confirmed that “sheets” of old asbestos were being found in a creek leading into Kedron Brook.

However, Ms Dwyer told residents at a public meeting at the Gaythorne RSL on Tuesday night that the risks from asbestos had declined since the plant closed.

“People should be aware that the site has not been used as an asbestos factory for over 20 years, so any general ambient contamination outside buildings is likely to have washed away with subsequent rain and flood events,” Ms Dwyer said.

“The greatest risk would have occurred when the factory was in operation and during close-down and clean-up.”

Ms Dwyer said Queensland Health was more than aware of public concerns in the two areas of Brisbane because there was a “30 to 40-year latency period” for asbestos-related diseases, between exposure and the emergence of mesothelioma.

On Wednesday morning Ms Dwyer said there were many variables that had to be cross-checked before the significance of the cancer disease close to the two asbestos factory sites could be classed as “significant”.

She said that included whether those people who contracted asbestos-related diseases had moved recently to the locations, whether they had worked at the factories, or whether the sufferers were the partner of a person who worked at either of the factories.

That research was part of a four-pronged study now underway into cancer-related diseases at Gaythorne, Mitchelton and Newstead, Ms Dwyer said.

She said the raw data was “important” but it was too early to tell if the asbestos-related disease statistics were “significant”.

Three Queensland Government departments – Environment, Health and Occupational Health and Safety with the Attorney-General’s department – and Brisbane City Council have been drawn into a multi-agency investigation.

Ms Dwyer said teams were doing inspections of dump sites being notified by residents, talking to James Hardie about the operations of the two plants and trying to locate former staff and management of the Wunderlich factory.

“Queensland Health is working with other agencies to determine whether there are any current health risks for residents living in close proximity to the former plant.”

This review will include tests of asbestos that has been found and checks of results found by a private company employed by a Brisbane media outlet.

“An environmental sampling program of the area surrounding the former Wunderlich factory will incorporate recognised testing standards and sampling methods,” Ms Dwyer said.

“If significant, above-background levels of contamination are detected as part of this investigation, then recommendations relating to health protection or mitigation measures to manage ongoing risks to the community will be provided to the appropriate agencies.”

Amanda Richards, general manager of Queensland’s Asbestos-Related Disease Society, on Tuesday said northside residents were now worried after several “dumps” of old asbestos sheeting were found.

“Every day we are getting more phone calls from people who lived in the area or who worked at the factory,” Ms Richards told Fairfax Radio 4BC.











View this article: 

Cancer link to two asbestos factories

Gaythorne asbestos meeting

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Amanda Richards, general manager of Queensland’s Asbestos-Related Disease Society said northside residents were now worried after several “dumps” of old asbestos sheeting were located.

“Every day we are getting more phone calls from people who lived in the area or who worked at the factory,” Ms Richards told Radio 4BC.

Ms Richards said people told her organisation of different dumping grounds for broken-up asbestos from the factory.

“It seems to be spreading out wider and wider every time I get another phone call,” she said.

She said the concerns had emerged after newer residents move into the suburb and began to create gardens and renovate older homes.

“They are starting to find asbestos in their yard. It may even be that they may not even be able to dig because their house may be on an asbestos dump.”

She said residents were finding small pieces of older blue and brown asbestos in the garden.

However she in one area she went to look at near Kedron Brook Creek there was “sheet upon sheet upon sheet” of asbestos.

She said local residents told her that trucks from the factory would dump asbestos near a drain that runs into Kedron Brook.

Ms Richards said she had spoken with residents about “older dimpled fibro” sheeting made from asbestos.

Concerns were first raised last month about the former Wunderlich plant in suburban Gaythorne.

Residents told a law firm specialising in asbestos-related claims of seeing clouds of dust in streets around the factory which left windows and washing coated in white powder.

It has been reported that 20 cases of asbestos- related compensations claims with former residents have been finalised, though this could not be confirmed on Tuesday night.

Ms Richards said it was now a Queensland Government responsibility to repair.

“Now that we know that these dumps are around, we need the government to deal with it,” she said.

“And whether it is public land or private land, something has to be put in place to either seal the asbestos off, or dig it up and dump it properly in the mines site.”

A Queensland Health spokesperson could not be contacted on Tuesday night.

ABC Television reported that Queensland Health representatives at the public meeting told residents that because the asbestos being found was old, any risk was “low”.

However Fairfax Media understands a state government investigation will identify where asbestos is being found in Gaythorne and Mitchelton and the history of the Wunderlich factory site.











Original article – 

Gaythorne asbestos meeting

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

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Taken from:  

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.











Continued here:

Asbestos: the hidden danger lurking in your backyard

Mr Fluffy homes can be demolished safely, asbestos taskforce head Andrew Kefford says

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“It is possible to demolish a house with loose-fill asbestos safely and without there being a risk to neighbouring property,” he said. “It’s an area of work which is very heavily regulated and at the point where the houses are actually being knocked over, either the lose-fill asbestos has been removed or it has been bonded to the structures so the prospect of the fibres escaping is being controlled.”

He pointed to a demolition of a Fluffy house in Woden in July, where he said asbestos removalists had worked for a fortnight before the building was knocked over to remove the remaining fibres and glue the rest to the structure, so by the time it was knocked over it was safe. Dust-suppression measures would be in place during demolition, along with air monitoring.

“The whole thing is designed so at the point it is actually knocked over, the fibres are controlled and there is active dust suppression and active air monitoring to make sure that it’s working,” he said.

With the Woden home, the internal walls were removed so the remaining fibres could be taken out before demolition, but the taskforce has been considering how to handle double-brick houses, where the load-bearing wall is on the inside, so the outside wall must come off first to clean asbestos from the wall cavities. Mr Kefford confirmed some would have to be “bubble wrapped” – effectively enclosed in a tent – but for others, it would be safe to use technologies such as foam products, glue and water suppression to prevent fibres escaping.

“It is possible to demolish a double-brick house safely and not necessarily by putting it in a bubble,” he said. “It is something we are continuing to explore, but all of the advice we’re getting from the industry is it can be done safely.”

Each house would be assessed separately and have a demolition plan in place.

“If the advice is this house needs a bubble because it’s so bad, then there will be a bubble.”

Asked about an exclusion zone around houses, he said “the bloke standing on site spraying dust suppression might wear a suit”, but “the whole process is designed from beginning to end to prevent fibres from escaping”.

Once the house was down, 10 centimetres of soil would be removed from under the footprint of the house and a little wider, then the soil would be tested. If it showed asbestos fibres, “you keep digging and then you test again”.

“This is a heavily regulated process. At the point that the asbestos assessor is prepared to sign off that the site is clean, they stop digging.”

In the Downer demolition last year, 30 centimetres of soil had been removed. In Woden, testing had been clear after 10 centimetres.

“You need to be in a position to say this block has been remediated, which means we tested, we didn’t find anything, we replaced the dirt to ground level with clean fill and this block is now remediated,” he said.

“We’re getting a lot of questions about this, but the point is it can be done safely. It is a very tightly regulated space and at the end of that process it is possible to say that it’s been done properly and safely.”

The government is considering a buyback and demolition of the 1000 homes.











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Mr Fluffy homes can be demolished safely, asbestos taskforce head Andrew Kefford says

'Morally bankrupt': Asbestos victims slam James Hardie

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Under the scheme, scheduled to come into effect from July 1 next year, some proven claims will be paid to victims in instalments rather than as a lump sum, and some other liabilities will be deferred.

Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia president Barry Robson was outraged by the proposal which follows Hardie’s decision to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends.

“Victims don’t die by instalments,” he said. “They need lump sum payments to pay medical bills and for carers, and to look after themselves and their families.”

The average mesothelioma victim dies within 155 days of diagnosis.

Mr Robson said it was immoral to cut payments when victims were already out of the workforce.

The AICF said it had approached the NSW Supreme Court regarding the proposed scheme. Approval from the Supreme Court and the NSW Attorney-General is required under the James Hardie Former Subsidiaries Act (2005).

James Hardie has paid $US556 million to its investors over the past two years and the building materials company is spending $US200 million ($221 million) a year over the next three years expanding plant capacity in its core US market.

“It shows you how morally bankrupt the Hardie’s board are when it comes to victims,” Mr Robson said.

“Why can’t they put some money into the fund? It was their product that did it. They manufactured those products knowing that it was dangerous”.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon said it was outrageous to “drip feed” victims and their families.

“It just adds insult to injury. Being paid on the drip is outrageous and adds uncertainty for victims who are dying from exposure to James Hardie’s products,” he said.

Mr Xenophon said he wrote to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and NSW Premier Mike Baird last week, urging them to investigate the funding gap.

“The response [to pay victims in instalments] is so outrageous that it deserves an extraordinary response,” Mr Xenophon said.

“The first step should be for the NSW and federal government to eyeball James Hardie executives and a legislative solution has to be on the table.”

James Hardie paid $120 million into the fund on July 1, which is all the fund had to pay claims as of July 3 after repaying $51.6 million in interest and principal from a previous drawdown on the loan facility.

The company has paid $721.4 million into the AICF since its inception in February 2007.

In the latest annual report, KPMG, the fund’s actuary, raised its base case estimate of claims liabilities by 12.6 per cent to $1.9 billion.

KPMG updates its forecasts based on the number, types and size of claims.

The AICF has paid almost $800 million and settled almost 4000 claims since its formation.

James Hardie said on Monday that any potential funding shortfall was “regrettable” and that it intended to stick to the present arrangement as specified in the 2006 amended final funding agreement.

The company said it was “available for discussions” with the AICF and government “specifically in relation to APS [approved payment scheme]”.

Discussions could take place as soon as this week. Mr Robson said he was trying to put together meetings with the office of Premier Mike Baird.

James Hardie has said it wants to increase its balance sheet gearing to about $US500 million. That figure implies the company wants to return about $US700 million in capital.

CIMB analyst Andrew Scott said that while the circumstances might may demand an APS-style solution, the prospect of delayed payments to claimants was unacceptable.

“We expect further negative publicity as a minimum and increased political pressure as highly likely,” he said. “Beyond that a final resolution is difficult to predict, but may make it more difficult for James Hardie to return excess funds to shareholders.”

Under the terms of the 2010 standby loan facility with the NSW government, the available drawdown is capped at the amount of the potential proceeds of insurance recoveries that may be available to the AICF.

KPMG estimates the present value of available drawings at $214 million. The fund expects to pay $500 million worth of claims over the next three years.

Based on current modelling, the fund said it would be able to pay claims as they fell due if ;the loan facility was increased to $320 million.

“They shouldn’t go to the public purse,” Mr Robson said.

“The loan arrangement is a backstop if the worst comes to worst, like if the US housing market hits rock bottom.

“The message [to James Hardie] is: put some money into the fund,” he said.

James Hardie saysthat the 35 per cent of operating cash flow it pays under the present arrangement is the maximum it can pay to grow and remain competitive.

Mr Robson and Mr Xenophon have said they want James Hardie to remain financially strong to ensure it can keep paying claims.











Continued:

'Morally bankrupt': Asbestos victims slam James Hardie

Welcome to the asbestos houses

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Property data shows at least five have been sold during the 1990s.

They were put together in panel polystyrene blocks sandwiched between asbestos cement facings.

Mr Kelly discovered the danger when he was in the middle of renovating and a neighbour ran over shouting for him to stop.

Mr Kelly discovered the danger when he was in the middle of renovating and a neighbour ran over shouting for him to stop.

Resident Jay Kelly discovered what his house was made of after starting renovations. He paid $357,500 for the three-bedroom house in 2009.

The commercial refrigeration mechanic planned to renovate for a few years and build equity to invest into land at Michelago while keeping the house as an investment.

He says at no stage in the sales process was he informed it was made almost entirely of asbestos and he is now stuck with a worthless house that he won’t be able to sell and can’t afford to knock down.

“I’ve gone back hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Mr Kelly said.

The building report describes the construction as “fibre cement sheet clad sandwich panels over foam, with metal wall framing” but the composition was not listed as known.

Under ACT legislation vendors must provide an asbestos assessment report, if there is one, or generic advice on asbestos if there is not – this is what the young first home buyer received.

Despite the fact the government built the houses and allowed them to be sold, ACT authorities have told the owners it is up to them to fix the problem.

Mr Kelly discovered the danger when he was in the middle of renovating and a neighbour ran over shouting for him to stop.

He had already done internal work including sanding and repairing in preparation for repainting the pink walls.

Mr Kelly sent a sample of the house to the ACT Government Analytical Laboratory for testing where it was found to be bonded chrysotile asbestos.

This is the most common form of the substance in the ACT and it differs from the amosite loose-fill asbestos now plaguing thousands of the city’s residents.

The loose asbestos was pumped into ceilings as insulation and is always present in a dangerous form as microscopic fibres. Bonded chrysotile asbestos becomes dangerous when it is degraded or disturbed and fibres are released.

Another test by Robson Environmental showed the chrysotile asbestos to be in the internal walls, external walls, ceiling sheets, eaves sheets and joint cover strips.

“No renovation or repair may be carried out in this house if it involves drilling, screwing or sanding which may disturb asbestos containing materials,” it said.

The report also rated the internal house as being in good condition with no risk of exposure during normal building use.

But, Mr Kelly said, his house remains dangerous due in part to its poor design and lack of insulation which causes mould to constantly grow on all surfaces and leads to paint cracking because of the moisture.

He is continually repainting but cannot work on the house to improve the situation.

The other day he caught his partner’s young son sticking his finger into the hole in the wall where a towel rail had been pulled out.

“How do you teach an eight-year-old asbestos awareness?” he said.

Mr Kelly feels trapped in the house that he can’t do any work on and is angry that the advice he has been given from the government is not realistic.

He said his home does not contain a manageable amount of asbestos and if he was to remove the substance he would be left with only windows and a tin roof.

“I can’t just sell the house because I can’t pass it on to someone else,” he said.

“I can’t rent it out – who would live here with the mould.”

Mr Kelly and the other home owners want action on the matter, believing their health and financial security are under threat.

Do you know more? Email meredith.clisby@fairfaxmedia.com.au.











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Assessors failed to detect blue asbestos in family's home

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For this young family, the large mortgage on their home has left them in financial limbo – and completely at the mercy of whatever settlement package is offered.

“We are looking down the barrel of facing financial ruin, which, when you are a young family just starting out, is pretty bad,” Mr Ziolkowski said.

The couple has few savings and even struggled to meet the costs of repeated asbestos assessments. Now they are now watching every dollar of the ACT government’s assistance package for families displaced by asbestos, knowing there is nothing in reserve for when it runs out.

The Ziolkowskis are also seeking answers on how their home was contaminated with blue asbestos and whether there are potential legal ramifications given the public health risks of blue asbestos were already well documented at the time it was being installed by Mr Fluffy.

ACT WorkSafe Commissioner Mark McCabe said blue asbestos had been discovered in just three homes in the ACT.

Mr and Mrs Ziolkowski are haunted by the idea their children have been exposed to crocidolite.

Their initiation assessment, undertaken by a Class A licensed assessor shortly after the government’s February warning letter to households, came back clear.

But, after the Ziolkowskis joined the Fluffy Owners and Residents’ Action Group and began discussing the issue with other affected families, they realised no samples had been taken and questioned the validity of the result.

A burst water pipe provided the chance for a second assessment – which also came back clear.

Mrs Ziolkowski said: “I was trying to stay positive that the house was going to be OK, but something inside me felt wrong. I actually felt sick all the time and I would get angry when Jonathan was playing on the floor and getting dusty – a part of me was always asking ‘what if?’ It was this constant sense of unease and stress.”

When her asbestos assessor came to check the repaired pipe, Mrs Ziolkowski asked whether any further testing should be undertaken but was reassured that it was unnecessary.

It was only when she checked her wardrobes and found large gaps in the wall cavities earlier this month that she called her assessor back and asked him to take a sample – which came back positive.

She then sought a second opinion from Robson Environmental, which undertook a forensic inspection. Samples from every room except the kitchen showed the presence of blue asbestos fibres.

Mrs Ziolkowski was at a shopping centre when the taskforce called to recommend the family vacate the home immediately.

“I was so completely hysterical a complete stranger came up to me and offered to take my baby and sit with her and feed her while I was on the phone,” she said. “I don’t have a home any more. We don’t have any possessions. We can never go back.”

The couple is concentrating on keeping calm for their children. But Mrs Ziolkowski is undergoing counselling to manage her grief and is having trouble sleeping.

Mr Ziolkowski is trying to focus on his work as a scientist, in order to protect their vital sole income.

Mr Fluffy Owner and Residents’ Action Group founder Brianna Heseltine said the family’s case raised questions for the government about the reliability of asbestos assessments and the need for a clear risk management strategy.

“I think the government needs to accept that residents are entitled to feel increasingly unprepared to play Russian roulette in their homes,” she said. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. One group member reminded me yesterday that it is his family that bears the exposure risk, not the government, and any delays on a decision about what to do with the homes could prove to be a tipping point.”











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Assessors failed to detect blue asbestos in family's home