The insidious danger of Mr. Fluffy

Perhaps it is the friendly-sounding name that increases the horror. Mr. Fluffy, sounds so pleasant, like something made from the wool of lambs, or some other cuddly creature. But Mr. Fluffy is anything but cuddly, and now stands for a terrible disaster playing out in Australia.

In the late 1960s, in Australia, as in California and much of the world, use of asbestos was still widespread. In spite of decades of inside information by manufacturers on the dangers posed by the mineral, it continued to be employed in dozens of building materials and placed in millions of homes.

One company, created the trade name “Mr. Fluffy” for their loose-fill home insulation. It was marketed as providing “sure comfort and fuel savings,” and even being certified as being “tested and approved.”

Yet as early as 1968, one expert warned that “exposure to asbestos dust is undesirable.” By the 1980s, the authorities attempted a clean-up. But the thousands of homeowners, who had purchased homes that had been “cleaned” in the early 1990s, have been appalled to learn that in many cases, virtually every surface in their homes is contaminated with asbestos fibers.

One woman found out as she was shopping for her son’s birthday party, and had an “emotional meltdown” as a result. They abandoned their home with just the clothes on their back, refusing to return to the “miniature Chernobyl” and its asbestos-contaminated surfaces.

The local government is now faced with the prospect of buying back all of the homes and bulldozing them. The problem with the so-call cleanup was that it had no chance removing all of the dust from the loose-fill insulation. Unlike some forms of asbestos-contaminated material, this insulation could not be encapsulated to prevent dust from become airborne.

For the families who lived in these homes, it is difficult to imagine when, if ever, they will feel safe, knowing that they or their children could develop mesothelioma decades in the future., “Families trapped in the Mr Fluffy asbestos nightmare,” Stefanie Balogh, November 1, 2014.