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Despite Ban, Asbestos Still Getting into Australia in Imports

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that even though the country banned asbestos in 2004, some imported building products containing the mineral are slipping through Australian borders. The country’s construction union has reported to the senate that construction materials like insulation with asbestos and other dangerous materials are getting in through Australian ports and ending up in residential and other buildings.

A union official was cited for his opinion that border officials are not sufficiently staffed or “resourced” to stop the flow of illegal products, largely from Russia, a country that opposes all asbestos bans. He also faulted “dodgy builders” eager to cut corners and use the cheapest product possible. The senate heard evidence that asbestos-containing building products are also coming in from China, Sri Lanka and the U.S. 

One senator felt that federal law enforcement “should be on alert” for the possibility of organized crime being involved in the illegal imports. He called for the strengthening of regulations to prohibit imports of building products from countries without “zero tolerance to asbestos in their products … unless every one … is tested prior to arrival …”

Australia Is in the Minority of Countries that Ban Asbestos

According to International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, as of February 18, 2017, 59 countries banned all types of asbestos, except for some minor uses. In North America, only tiny Honduras has banned the deadly mineral, but as we have posted before, Canada has announced a ban by 2018.

European countries have almost all forbidden it. However, the U.S. has not, despite the advocacy of many, although it is banned in some products. We recently posted a blog about the history of and potential for a U.S. ban. Other large, industrialized countries that still allow it include Brazil, Russia, China and India. 

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