Communities throughout New South Wales are dealing with a problem they never foresaw – a lack of police protection because the municipal housing options have been contaminated with asbestos.
An ABC report recently uncovered that it’s not uncommon to find communities around the state that have been without a full police force for months or even years because asbestos abatement programs were never completed. Inspections were performed and found there were asbestos exposure dangers, as well as lead paint concerns; however, this was as far as the communities got.
Take Ungarie, for example. The community hasn’t had a full police force for a year and a half because of this problem. When the townspeople need assistance, they have to call on the nearest town, which is more than an hour’s drive away.
However, these communities’ concern for the safety of police officers is merited. Asbestos, a fibrous mineral mined for decades around the world, has been found to cause mesothelioma, asbestosis and other lung diseases. Symptoms of exposure may not arise for decades, and by the time victims are aware of the problem, it’s often too late.
Stuck as at crossroads
The small towns are fully aware of the dangers of asbestosis, but many can’t afford to perform the abatement measures necessary to make the facilities safe for police officers. Making matters worse, the lack of police has led to further problems for the communities.
“Once there was no police presence in the town, some of the hoons started to play up,” resident Neville Lane told ABC.
“There’s been three or four officers that have been prepared to come to Ungarie, but they’ve been stopped because of the fact of the condition of the residence.”
Mr Lane is leading a campaign to improve police accommodation facilities – however, the proposed price tag of the project is causing some hurdles. It’s been billed as a $100 million job, so the town may need to look into other ways of keeping officers safe from exposure.
Australia has some of the highest asbestos exposure rates anywhere in the world, second only to the UK. The mineral was used in the construction industry in Australia from 1945 to about 1980. Since its discontinuation, about 4,700 people have died from mesothelioma.
Experts say about 500 men and 100 women develop mesothelioma every year, and the total number of annual diagnoses could rise to 900 per annum by 2020.
Those who may have come in contact with asbestos may want to reach out to compensation lawyers to learn all legal options.