Asbestos, which has long been known to cause a number of serious health issues ranging from lung diseases to deadly mesothelioma, is at the heart of a controversy in New South Wales.
The mayor of Mudgee recently had two of his properties demolished, but groups assert that in doing so, he has left many residents exposed to the carcinogen.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mayor Des Kennedy reportedly sold a plot of land to community housing charity Housing Plus. Later, the group hoped to gain approval of 20 affordable housing units, which the mayor said he supported.
However, after asking for a grant for $150,000, the mayor removed himself from the decision, saying he once owned the land the charity wanted to build on. The mayor did not award the grant, and it was later determined that the amount of asbestos contamination was much higher than first believed.
"What I can confirm is that we purchased the land from the mayor as a private individual. The site was heavily contaminated with asbestos and we asked the council to waive the tipping fee, which they did," Housing Plus Chief Executive Karen Andrew told the Sydney Morning Herald.
'Dust all over the place'
Fairfax Media spoke to nearby resident Terry Tattersall, who said the demolition likely didn't follow standard asbestos abatement protocol.
''They never told us the buildings were going to be pulled down and they didn't have any overalls on," he said.
"There was dust all over the place."
It seems that every week new stories break about asbestos being found in homes or on construction sites, even decades after its use in construction was banned in Australia. Next to the UK, Australia has the highest rate of asbestos-related cancer deaths anywhere in the world.
Since the government started keeping track of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis in the early 1980s, about 10,000 people have died from the diseases. Over the next four decades, about 25,000 more people in Australia are expected to die because of asbestos exposure.
The people most at risk for asbestos exposure in Australia include anyone who has worked in construction, carpentry, plumbing, electrical engineering, insulation works or shipbuilding anytime before 1987.
Those who may have come in contact with the dangerous mineral may want to get in touch with asbestos compensation lawyers to learn what legal options are available.