Cancer Council has welcomed a new government-supported plan to remove asbestos from all commercial and government buildings by 2030 and take other vital steps to reduce the risks of asbestos-caused disease.
Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, said the new Asbestos Management Review(1), developed by an independent expert group and released by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, provides a blueprint for managing the deadly building material.
“Asbestos was banned as a building material in the 1980s, but potentially deadly asbestos fibres in fibro sheeting and other materials remain in place in hundreds of thousands of buildings,” he said.
“The new Asbestos Management Review provides clear recommendations for minimising the risks posed by the abundance of asbestos in Australian buildings.
“The key now is to get on with implementing the recommendations in the review.”
Recommendations include developing a plan for the safe removal of asbestos from government and commercial buildings by 2030, the development of new laws to underpin compliance with safety procedures, and establishing a national agency to coordinate the plan’s overall implementation.
Raising public awareness is also a key recommendation.
“The biggest risk today is that home renovators and tradespeople, either unknowingly or prepared to cut corners, will tamper with asbestos-containing materials rather than use a licensed professional,” Professor Olver said.
“People need to understand that even short-term or occasional exposure to asbestos fibres can cause mesothelioma and other fatal cancers.”
Professor Olver said asbestos was usually harmless if the fibres remained locked into building materials that were intact and not tampered with.
“It poses very little risk if undisturbed, but eventually most buildings containing asbestos will as a matter of course be renovated or damaged,” he said.
“So we can’t just ignore this potentially deadly stuff.
“We need a long-term plan for its safe removal. And that’s what the new review will provide – if governments, businesses and the broader community get on with following through on the recommendations.”
Cancer Council Australia is jointly hosting an asbestos summit in Sydney on 4 September.
1) Asbestos Management Review