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AU Street Closed After Asbestos Mishap

Thursday, December 17, 2020

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Earlier this month, a variety of homes and vehicles were placed on lockdown in a suburban Sydney community after two private cleaning contractors sent asbestos particles flying from a home’s roof.

About Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, which can typically be found in rock, sediment or soil. It has strong fibers that are heat resistant and have good insulating properties.

According to Safe Work Australia, asbestos was once used in more than 3,000 different products, including fibro, flue pipes, drains, roofs, gutters, brakes, clutches and gaskets, among others. The material was also popular for insulating homes from the 1940s until 1987 in the country.

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Earlier this month, a variety of homes and vehicles were placed on lockdown in a suburban Sydney community after two private cleaning contractors sent asbestos particles flying from a home’s roof.

However, when asbestos fibers are released into the air, they become a health risk and can potentially cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Due to these risks, Australia issued a total ban on asbestos in December 2003, making it illegal to make it, use it or even import it from another country. Additionally, workers handling asbestos are required to be trained and hold a license.

On the contrary, in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency announced back in October 2017 that it would be tightening the parameters of a congressionally mandated review of chemicals in public use, effectively leaving out millions of tons of asbestos, flame retardants and other toxins.

For asbestos in particular, that meant that the few hundred tons that are imported annually would be reviewed, but the estimated 8.9 million tons of asbestos-containing products that have entered the marketplace between 1970-2016 would not, according to the AP.

"It's bad medicine, and it's harmful," said Michael Harbut, an internal medicine professor at Detroit's Wayne State University and medical adviser to an insulation workers' union, at the time. "There's still a lot of asbestos out there. It's still legal, it's still deadly, and it's going to be a problem for decades to come."

What Happened in Australia

According to reports, instead of blasting the roof’s dirt away, a privately hired cleaning team used a high-pressure hose that sent dangerous asbestos particles from the roof flying all over the street. As a result, residents reported clouds of the particles raining down on homes and family pets, which led to the lockdown of three homes and nine cars at Mariposa Road in Bilgola Plateau, Australia.

Local resident Linda Amoah said that the substance appeared like snow, covering her entire home “The dogs were covered in asbestos, the whole backyard covered in asbestos,” she told 9 News.

In an effort to clean up the situation, hazmat teams arrived shortly after the incident and have since installed drain blocks in order to limit the spread of the particles and have also set up air monitoring systems to keep neighboring occupants safe.

The entire clean up effort, however, is expected to cost more than half a million dollars and could take weeks to be completed. “We're going to make a hot zone of the area we believe is affected,” Superintendent Kel McNamara from NSW Fire and Rescue said.


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Accidents; Air quality; Asbestos; Australia; Blasting; Good Technical Practice; Health & Safety; Health and safety; SA; Safety

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