A number of suburbs across western Sydney have been informed that they may have come into contact with asbestos because of their proximity to James Hardie disposal sites.
James Hardie is a building materials company that supplied products containing asbestos throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Exposure to asbestos can lead to several fatal diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.
At least 185 households could be affected, with Parramatta City Council and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) visiting high-priority properties to inform families of the dangers.
According to Fairfax Media, floods and construction work on the WestConnex project uncovered friable asbestos, which crumbles and becomes airborne more easily than most types of the material.
As a precaution, residents were warned to avoid cutting their grass or digging up their garden as they may disturb the asbestos from the dumping sites.
Asbestos risks 'unacceptable'
NSW Ombudsman John McMillan recently slammed the government's management of James Hardie disposal areas, claiming that lives could be at risk due to poor oversight.
"Individuals who live on sites where they have found asbestos is present could understandably be very critical of government and say government has failed in their responsibility to provide proper health protections for them and others against deadly health risks," he stated.
Compensation is available for people who are exposed to asbestos during the course of their employment, with construction workers, fire fighters and factory staff among those who most commonly come into contact with the material.
James Hardie set up the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund in 2006 to implement and administer payouts for those who suffered asbestos-related diseases after working at the firm.
Greens criticise government reaction
Last month, NSW Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi called for urgent action regarding the 185 households at risk of asbestos exposure from James Hardie disposal sites.
She was particularly critical of the local government's failure to inform residents that asbestos had been dumped nearby.
Fairfax Media reported that households in one of the affected sites – Prince Street in Granville – claimed they were unaware of the asbestos problem. EPA and council staff allegedly only went door to door after concerns were raised in the media.
"It is absolutely unacceptable that people have been exposed to asbestos. Cleaning up asbestos waste should have been a priority for both the NSW government and the local council. People's health is at risk," Dr Faruqi said.
Has asbestos exposure affected you or a loved one's life? Please contact the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for more information.