Imported asbestos products getting past Australian customs

Imported asbestos getting past Australian customs

Large shipments of products containing asbestos are entering Australia undetected by customs officials and it has some groups worried about worker safety.

Fibres were recently found in almost a dozen train engines and it is feared many more dangerous imports are slipping through.

While the manufacture of asbestos has been banned in Australia for more than quarter of a century, it is still rife in China, Russia and Brazil.

“It’s cheap to produce a product for housing and things like that, but it’s also killing people,” Terry Miller from the Asbestos Victims Association said.

Products containing the deadly fibres are then exported around the globe, including to Australia.

Last month, asbestos was found in the engines of ten trains during routine testing, sparking fears for worker safety.

“Our security system in Australia is so lax and through customs, if it looked like asbestos, these guys picked it, they should’ve done an analysis themselves,” Ian Sheppard from the Asbestos Diseases Society said.

It follows the recall of more than 20,000 Great Wall and Chery vehicles with asbestos gaskets last year.

In June, customs officials in Adelaide intercepted and destroyed a shipment of motorcycles containing asbestos.

Mechanics admit they do not expect to find asbestos in motorbikes and therefore do not undertake precautionary measures, but they fear cheap imported parts could be putting them at risk.

Those caught trying to bring asbestos merchandise into the country face fines of up to $850,000.

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