Key findings from a KGH Border Services report commissioned by the Immigration Department found there was confusion about policy and regulatory responsibilities, and there was no dedicated trade and good customer function for people to seek advice about Asbestos.
The department released the report today after the ABC recently revealed Asbestos was slipping into the country from China and other Asian countries in building materials and had been used on several building sites. Only a low percentage of imported building materials are being tested for Asbestos when they reach the Australian border. Last month the ABC revealed Australian Border Force was only testing a small fraction of shipments each year for the deadly substance and a Chinese company was claiming it made 100 per cent Asbestos-free products, but exported Asbestos containing fibre cement board to two Adelaide companies.
Asbestos fibres are dangerous when airborne and inhaled. Inhaling Asbestos leads to cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestos identification is essential to prevent accidental Asbestos exposure.
‘Differing standards’ on chrysotile
It also noted “Asbestos continues to be widely used internationally” and the “differing standards” about chrysotile, a type of Asbestos, was not recognised as a dangerous by some countries.
Last month Border Force said since 2013 it had finalised 10 investigations but declined to detail the number of prosecutions. The report found there had been “a limited number of full investigations” and prosecutions of Asbestos-related offences because it was “difficult” for the department to prosecute against a mistake of fact defence.
The defence mitigates an importer’s liability for the product if they can provide evidence that they had exercised due diligence against the goods containing Asbestos.
A certificate from an overseas laboratory showing the goods were Asbestos free could be enough evidence for a court to find the importer had done its best to meet standards, the report stated.
“Lack of available evidence, which can only be gathered by undertaking a full investigation, makes it difficult to develop strong prospects of successful prosecution,” the report read.
The report found Border Force’s management was effective but there were organisation and technical improvements that could be made including educating major trading partner countries about Australian laws; maximise targeting of high-risk goods by enhancing current risk profiling; and streamline and publish external guidance on sampling methodology and testing techniques.
Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) leader Nick Xenophon said today he would introduce legislation to enforce mandatory testing of products imported from countries that do not have appropriate Asbestos regulatory systems in place.
Senator Xenophon said the current ban on Asbestos was not working.
“My concern is that Border Force has not given this the priority it deserves, given that Asbestos exposure can and does kill right now 700 Australian each year,” he said.
“We don’t want to see another tsunami of Asbestos cases in 30 or 40 years time even though it’s been banned for use in this country for many years.”
Source: ABC News
How to identify Asbestos in building materials
If you are worried about any possible Asbestos containing materials the best and most reliable way to identify Asbestos is to use an Asbestos testing kit. Simply download the Enviroscience Asbestos test kit which instructs you on the correct and safe way to take a sample of the suspect material then offers a free postage testing service that is a Local Government Approved. Download the Asbestos test kit here test kit Asbestos
Juliet Duffy holds a Master of Sustainable Management from Sydney University, is a Licensed Asbestos Assessor and has been managing environmental health issues since 1988. Juliet is Director of Regional Enviroscience – an NATA Accredited Asbestos & hazardous materials laboratory and occupational health consultancy based in regional NSW – Hunter Valley, Central NSW and the Riverina.