The Mr. Fluffy saga has been playing out in Canberra for more than a decade, and it is now expanding to New South Wales and other surrounding areas. It all started 40 years ago when raw, loose asbestos was placed in thousands of residential homes to serve as insulation. It was marketed by a company now known as Mr. Fluffy because the product was marketed under the name “asbestosfluf” for the fluffy nature of the material.
It is now well known that this type of loose asbestos material can cause cancer and other health conditions 20 or more years after inhalation. The human body cannot eliminate it from the system as it does many other toxins, so the fibres collect inside the body and lead to mesothelioma or asbestosis. Thousands of Australians have died due to asbestos-induced cancer, and even more people are receiving the same deadly diagnosis of cancer every day.
The number of people affected by asbestos-induced cancer will continue to grow as long as buildings in Australia contain asbestos. While some reports state that the government was warned about the dangers of the loose asbestos fill being placed in thousands of homes throughout Canberra and NSW 40 years ago, the government is just now being forced to take action on the problem.
Recent Mr. Fluffy Updates
If you have been following the Mr. Fluffy saga, you may already know that more than a thousand homes have been identified as containing Mr. Fluffy asbestos insulation in Canberry and homes are now being identified in NSW and other areas. The ACT government has decided to buy back homes in the area so that they can be demolished and the materials properly disposed of before more people are affected by the asbestos materials.
The problem is that the federal government had not offered a loan to help the ACT government cover the expenses of such a buy back programme. That was recently changed when the federal government stepped forward with a $1-billion loan to help the ACT cover the buy backs and demolition projects essential to cleaning up the Mr. Fluffy asbestos mess.
With the financial means to move forward with the buy back programme, the ACT government started searching for a safe place to dispose of the homes demolished through the programme. Most Australian landfills do not accept asbestos materials, and there are strict laws that must be enforced to ensure more people are not exposed to asbestos fibres that get loose in the air. Those fibres are not seen by the human eye, so they are among the deadliest toxins to ever enter the environment.
The Planned Asbestos Dump
It is now being reported that all of the homes demolished in the Mr. Fluffy buy back programme will end up in the West Belconnen Resource Management Centre. This centre is a landfill in Macgregor located on Parkwood Drive. All remains of the asbestos-contaminated homes will be dumped in the West Belconnen tip which is just slight over 1 km from the closest residential area.
The Act government claims that this is the only dumping facility capable of handling the amount of asbestos-contaminated waste that will be produced as more than 1,000 homes are demolished. It is estimated that 150,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated material will be disposed of by the completion of the project, and there are still more homes throughout Canberra and NSW which may have even more Mr. Fluffy asbestos materials.
The estimate of 150,000 tonnes of waste is based on the estimated amount of rubbish produced by a home with three or four bedrooms. This figure is likely to go even higher since homeowners are likely going to give up some of their material possessions which are now contaminated with asbestos fibres. There are reports of families finding asbestos fibres on clothing, bedding and in carpeting.
Some reports even detail asbestos fibres found on children’s toys and in carpeting, walls and dressers used by children. All of those materials may need to be included in the waste deposited at the centre, increasing the number considerably.
Moving Forward with Mr. Fluffy
It is scary to think about children playing with toys contaminated with deadly asbestos fibres. That hints that many more Australians are likely to receive diagnoses of mesothelioma in the future, and many of them can get the diagnosis in their 20s or 30s rather than later in life since they have potentially been exposed to these fibres as young children.
Other reports have detailed asbestos insulation installed by Mr. Fluffy remaining in roofs which are now in poor condition. These roofs are in residential areas where children play and adults enjoy their daily lives, and there is a concern that the asbestos fibres will break free and contaminate the breathing air in those areas.
Since the ACT government continues to request homeowners come forward if they are aware of Mr. Fluffy asbestos in their homes, many simply don’t know whether this insulation was placed in their homes during construction or not. Others have simply not responded to the government inquiry, which means there could be many more homes contaminated than the figure currently revealed.
Now that funding for the buy back programme is in place and there is a plan for the disposal of the contaminated rubbish, the Act government will proceed with purchasing homes from families and demolishing them to prevent future exposure. Some families have already been removed from their homes because they are so contaminated they are deemed unsafe for inhabitation.
There are likely many more homes that are unsafe for inhabitation, and they will be identified as the project moves forward and testing on homes throughout Canberra and NSW continues. The problem is that this is a slow process, and thousands of people are at risk of inhaling deadly asbestos fibres in the meantime.
While no one likes the idea of disposing of this amount of asbestos anywhere in the ACT, it has to go somewhere and the faster these homes are demolished the better.
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