Importing building products containing asbestos into Australia may have been illegal for over a decade, but the product is still finding its way into the country.

Concrete fibre sheeting manufactured in China is believed to have been used in over 64 building sites across Australia, 11 of which are in South Australia.

The sheeting was used in the flooring of two electrical substations in Adelaide. Recent tests have confirmed that this product contains white asbestos, chrysotile.

According to Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency CEO Peter Tighe, the discovery may represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of problems faced by Australia with the decline of local manufacturing and increased reliance on foreign-sourced building products.

Despite it being illegal to import products containing asbestos into Australia, the deadly substance continues to slip past customs officials in products often certified as being ‘asbestos free’.

Mr Tighe has expressed his concern for the potential public health effects this could have on the Australian public generally; and especially young trades people who ‘haven’t been trained to deal with these products’.

Asbestos has also been recently found in products imported into Australia other than building materials such as car parts and children’s crayons.

Senator Nick Xenophon has called for an increasingly comprehensive approach to be taken by Australian Border Force officials, rather than relying on random searches. He has also called for increased accountability from suppliers and importers and potential jail terms for importers caught bringing in products containing the substance.

Concern has been expressed by union officials that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement could worsen the problem.

If you believe you may have been exposed to asbestos you should speak with your doctor. If you are suffering an asbestos related illness you should also seek legal advice from one of our specialist dust diseases lawyers on 13 43 63.

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