Australians are at risk of being exposed to asbestos in imported building products, an industry group has warned.
The Asbestos Industry Association said the potentially deadly material was discovered in cement compound board from China two months ago.
“The samples were tested in Asia with a certificate saying they were asbestos-free,” association president Michael Shepherd told the ABC.
“We analysed those samples according to Australian standards and detected the presence of chrysotile or white asbestos.”
The discovery was the latest in a number of imported building products that have tested positive for asbestos in the past year, including cement compound board in Canberra.
But Mr Shepherd said Australian border protection officials were not stopping the potentially deadly products from entering the country.
“Importers are accepting these goods in good faith and they’re relying on the documentation from overseas stating these products are asbestos-free,” he said.
“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.”
‘No guarantee new Australian buildings are risk-free’
The Asbestos Related Disease Support Society Queensland has called for urgent action to protect people who could be exposed to asbestos.
“It will bring through another wave of asbestos-related diseases,” spokeswoman Amanda Richards said.
“I mean, these people might have worked with these products for a while before they realise it’s asbestos.”
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it was looking into the matter.
Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg told Senate Estimates this week the problem was ongoing.
He was asked by Senator Lisa Singh if he agreed with the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency that there was no guarantee Australian buildings built after the asbestos ban in 2003 would be risk-free.
“Yes I would,” Mr Quaedvlieg replied.
He was also quizzed about the role customs officials play in protecting Australians from contaminated building products.
“That’s where we can stop this, at the gate so to speak,” Senator Singh said.
“You are right. We have certainly raised the level of awareness and consciousness in our workforce in relation to their responsibilities in this regard,” Mr Quaedvlieg said.
He said he was due to travel to China over the weekend to discuss the matter.
“I make no secret of the fact that drugs is very high up on the agenda, but certainly prohibited imports like asbestos will be part of that conversation,” he said.
First published http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-23/new-evidence-australians-at-risk-asbestos-imported-products/6879856 by By Stephanie Smail