According to an article on CanberraTimes.com.au hundreds of tradespeople in Canberra could have unexpectedly been breathing in hazardous asbestos fibres while working on houses in the 1970s. The fears have been brought to light by a former electrician who himself worked in Canberra houses during the seventies when he says that he and others may have been exposed to “Mr Fluffy” asbestos without being aware of it.
Also according to the ACT CFMEU, asbestos (including the ”fairy floss” amosite insulation) was a daily concern for workers in the ACT going into houses and commercial buildings. So much so that the CFMEU’s secretary Dean Hall has called for an urgent audit to be undertaken on all commercial premises built before 2003 in order to confirm that mandatory asbestos management has been conducted.
This excerpt from the post on CanberraTimes.com.au explains,
The Canberra Times revealed on Thursday that while the ACT government was spending $2 million deconstructing a home in Downer, there had been no investigation into the commercial buildings that could still contain the dangerous substance. Non-residential buildings were not surveyed along with houses built before 1980 under the loose-fill asbestos removal program carried out by the Commonwealth then ACT governments.
Mr Hall said while experienced builders and tradespeople knew about the general risk of asbestos, the union was finding that younger workers, commonly apprentices, were not aware of the dangers.
But he said the risk was potentially in every building.
”On a daily basis we have reports of people who have inadvertently exposed asbestos,” he said.
There was no knowledge of which homes contained Mr Fluffy asbestos and many commercial premises did not have an up-to-date asbestos management plan in place or even have one at all. Mr Hall called for an audit to be completed on all commercial buildings built before 2003 – the year asbestos was banned in Australia – to make sure all properties had been tested for asbestos.
It is frightening to think that there are people walking around who aren’t even aware that they have been affected by asbestos, what is even more concerning is the number of people who weren’t aware of the exposure they suffered and died as a result of undiagnosed and therefore untreated medical conditions relating to asbestos exposure.
According to building industry veterans, crawling into roof spaces during the seventies was a common practice, with no thought given to the fact that asbestos was present and deadly. It was apparently also common to walk through loose infill insulation in many homes. Workers also commonly removed roof tiles to allow light into the work area, leaving themselves exposed to millions of visible asbestos fibres, sadly at this time the risks were not known.
The post goes on to explain:
It was not until the early 1980s that the use of amosite asbestos was banned in Australia and it would be a further eight years before the Commonwealth’s survey was carried out in the ACT.
”You knew you were breathing it in,” Mr Carruthers said. ”You could pick handfuls of it up and it would float away … any movement at all, you just had to walk through it.”
Mr Carruthers said he had recently undergone a medical check-up and had mentioned his asbestos concerns to his doctor and would soon undergo an X-ray.