Australia Ends Asbestos Use
On December 31, 2003, Australia joined a growing number of countries which have decided to put health before profit by banning the use of asbestos. Australian legislators implemented laws prohibiting the import, use and sale of products containing chrysotile (white asbestos), other forms of asbestos having been banned previously, after research into the existence of safer alternatives and wide-ranging public consultation. The comprehensive prohibitions forbid the new use of automotive materials such as asbestos-containing (AC) brake pads and gaskets; although the removal of AC materials is currently not mandatory, replacement parts must be asbestos-free. Stockpiles of AC products must be disposed of safely in line with state and territory regulations. According to a government website: “The prohibition will take place simultaneously in each Australian state and territory, and it will be complimented by Customs regulations banning imports and exports.”
The reasons for the ban were explained in a series of documents which conclude that “a ban on the use of chrysotile will have a benefit through a reduction in illness and death to those persons exposed.” Furthermore, Australian researchers believe that “in all respects, chrysotile is more hazardous than any of the alternative materials.” Other measures being considered to protect the Australian public from harmful asbestos exposures include the revision of the national codes of practice for:
the safe removal of asbestos and the measuring of airborne asbestos;
and managing and controlling AC materials incorporated into Australian workplaces.
More information on the Australian restrictions are available on the website of the National Occupational Health & Safety Commission: http://www.nohsc.gov.au/
January 2, 2004