Asbestos issue ‘has been grossly mismanaged’ in NSW

Date: Nov 13, 2014

The issue of loose-fill asbestos in homes across NSW has been “grossly mismanaged” by successive state governments, a new report has suggested.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said the Mr Fluffy scandal has affected various homeowners across the state, yet authorities have been slow to react.

Properties in NSW and the ACT were pumped with loose-fill asbestos for insulation purposes in the 1960s and 1970s. However, while the ACT government has received a $1 billion bailout package from the Commonwealth to tackle the issue, the situation is less clear in NSW.

Asbestos is a dangerous material that has been linked to various deadly diseases, including asbestosis, mesothelioma and silicosis.

“An unfortunate chain of events has left a currently unquantified number of people facing an unintended hazard and fearful of unimaginable potential consequences,” LGNSW said in its report.

The document is the organisation’s submission to the Joint Select Committee Inquiry into Loose-Fill Asbestos, the findings of which will be released in February 2015.

Potential for asbestosis claims

Ministry of Health figures suggest as many as 230 homes in NSW could be fitted with loose-fill asbestos from operator Mr Fluffy, although the true scale of the problem is unknown.

Around 140 homes in Albury, Wagga Wagga and Tumbarumba could be affected, as well as a further 60 in Berrigan. The issue is particularly prevalent in Queanbeyan, which is a short distance from the ACT and is where the Mr Fluffy insulation problem started.

In Sydney, fewer than 10 homes are linked to the scandal, however, there is evidence to suggest loose-fill asbestos insulation was transported to North Sydney and St Ives.

This has led local councils to consider the possibility that a number of, as yet, unknown homes could contain asbestos. Furthermore, schools and commercial buildings may also be at risk.

Despite highlighting the mismanagement of asbestos, LGNSW said the state should learn from the example set by the ACT government.

“LGNSW calls on the NSW government to devote adequate funding and commitment to this issue so that it can be properly resolved rather than continuing to be an ongoing problem for decades to come,” the organisation said.

According to LGNSW, a number of positive steps should be made to deal with asbestos, including investigating the scope of the issue, finding ways to notify affected people and preventing further exposure to the deadly material.

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