NSW schools at risk of asbestos claims

Date: Feb 12, 2015

A number of NSW schools could be contaminated with asbestos, and parents are reportedly concerned their children risk exposure to the deadly material.

Bonded asbestos fragments were discovered at Manly West Public School in 2012, but it has taken three clean-up operations at the site to get the situation under control, the ABC reports.

Asbestos, which causes fatal lung diseases such as silicosis and mesothelioma, was found on the school oval, yet parents complained the issue was not resolved effectively.

Ultimately, Manly West P&C raised tens of thousands of dollars in order to hire a specialist consultant who could address the issue.

Mike Jeffries, the father of an 11-year-old boy who attends the school, believes more of an effort should have been made to resolve the problem when it was first discovered.

“This is asbestos for God’s sake. If we haven’t learnt how to deal with asbestos and how serious it is by now, when will we?” he asked.

Expert criticises asbestos response

Col Scott, the specialist brought in to deal with the Manly West contamination, said a few schools have been contacting him with fears there may be asbestos at their site.

Furthermore, he claimed academic institutions are unhappy with the way the education system is currently responding. Schools are commonly using the ‘chicken picking’ method of removing asbestos.

Mr Scott, who works for artificial turf firm Grassman, said a line of people in protective gear move up and down the affected area and double bag any loose asbestos fragments they come across.
“They’re just skimming the surface and that is a temporary fix,” he explained.

More action needed

Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Peter Tighe told the ABC that current approaches are merely a Band-Aid treatment to the problem.

“If you’ve got an indication that there’s widespread contamination at a surface level, then surely what it needs is further investigation to ensure that there isn’t an ongoing risk to the public, people playing sport or school children,” he stated.

The news comes not long after investigators found the first home in the state to contain the deadly material since the start of a government initiative to clean up loose-fill asbestos insulation.

Located in Berrigan Shire Council, the property became the 58th overall to be identified, although the other homes were discovered before the government began offering free asbestos checks for concerned residents.

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