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The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has told a recent Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products that a wide range of imported goods and materials used in the building industry has been found to contain asbestos.
Last year, cement compound board imported into the Australian Capital Territory from China was found to contain chrysotile asbestos and in New South Wales an owner builder purchased a shed from a supplier on the internet, which also contained chrysotile asbestos in a sealing tape installed between roof sheets.
Just recently, asbestos was also discovered in fibre-reinforced building panels imported into NSW to construct a residential building. Subsequent inquiries revealed a similar product purchased from the same supplier in China was also imported into Western Australia and used in a residential construction. Fortunately, this batch of fibre-reinforced building panels was found to be asbestos-free.
This is a timely reminder that builders must be vigilant about the products they use during construction. In the NSW case the certification provided to importers that the goods were asbestos-free was unreliable and this is not the first occasion certifications have been found to be wrong for the purposes of Australian regulations.
Builders must satisfy themselves the products they use do not contain asbestos. Where builders source products directly from overseas it may be prudent to carry out testing to ensure the products are suitable. Where builders source overseas products from local distributors it may be prudent to ask the distributor what tests or other assurance is available that the products are suitable.
This WorkCover NSW safety alert provides advice on building products that have been imported and found to contain asbestos: