Despite the many dangers that surround asbestos, it wasn't until the final day of December 2003 that the substance was completely banned in Australia. This means that the deadly mineral still exists in many homes and buildings around the country, so asbestos training remains a vital part of many a professional's repertoire. Due to its versatility and low cost, Australia imported some 1.5 million tonnes of asbestos into the country between 1930 and 1983, and the substance found its way into one third of Aussie houses during that time, according to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA). 

Australia imported some 1.5 million tonnes of asbestos into the country between 1930 and 1983.

Unfortunately, as we know all too well in these enlightened modern times, asbestos is a highly hazardous substance. Those that worked with it on a day-to-day basis were at a serious risk of a range of lung conditions (due to asbestos fibres' persistence, which refers to the amount of time they'll stay in someone's lungs). This prolonged irritation of the lungs can feasibly lead to the development of tumours and an aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma, an illness which has accounted for more than 10,000 Australian deaths since the mid-1980s, states The Mesothelioma Centre. 

Why is asbestos still arriving in Australia?

Despite the fact that asbestos is now completely banned in Australia, it continues to be imported into the country, according to the Asbestos Industry Association (AIA), only adding to an already big problem. The AIA stated that asbestos was found in a cement compound which arrived from China, despite the presence of a certificate stating that they were free of the substance:

"Importers are accepting these goods in good faith and they're relying on the documentation from overseas stating these products are asbestos-free," said AIA president Michael Shepherd to the ABC.

"From what we know, customs are checking less than 5 per cent of all products that come into Australia, so it's very difficult to identify which products are coming in and which products do contain asbestos."

Asbestos continues to find its way into Australia, despite a complete ban in 2003.Asbestos continues to find its way into Australia, despite a complete ban in 2003.

An enduring problem

In light of these revelations, the ASEA was granted an extra AU$3.4 million over two years as part of the 2016/17 Budget. Following this, the ASEA stated in its Annual Operational Plan that it would cooperate with a broad range of government arms to monitor the threat of asbestos. That's great news, but because asbestos is completely banned in Australia doesn't mean it is everywhere else. Far from it, in fact.

There is no ban on asbestos in several developed nations, including Russia, India, Canada, the United States and China. It's the latter that is causing the most concern, seeing as China is easily Australia's most lucrative trading partner.  

There is no ban on asbestos in several developed nations, including Russia, India, Canada, the United States and China.

Worryingly, in a report produced by KGH Border Service, a company partnered with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, it was implied that imported asbestos is a problem too difficult to effectively police, especially as much of the substance crossing our borders originates in China.

Alarmingly, the report states that even though asbestos has been proven to be danger to public health and safety, it's still a cheap and effective material, suitable for a range of uses.

That may be so, but it's also widely known that asbestos is a lethal substance, responsible for the deaths of thousands. At AlertForce, we don't believe that any substance as deadly as asbestos should ever see the light of day again in Australia. Nevertheless, it's a problem that won't be going away for the foreseeable future, so be sure to get in touch with AlertForce to arrange your asbestos training today.