Australian Border Force has issued three fines to Chinese construction giant Yuanda for using lethal asbestos-laced building products in Brisbane’s so-called “tower of power’’ in 2016.
Yuanda supplied asbestos-tainted gaskets to the $650 million Queensland Government executive building, long with supplying contaminated roofing panels for the $1.2 billion children’s hospital in Perth.
According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Yuanda has been fined but have refused to disclose the amount, which under current Australian law is a maximum of $15,750 per offence.
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency told the Courier Mail on August 12, 2017 that 64 asbestos seizures at the border last financial year were just “the tip of the iceberg’’ of dangerous products that could reach Australian homes.
Agency chief executive Peter Tighe said that “no one’s really had a kick in the backside’’ for flouting Australia’s asbestos ban.
“I know it’s sexy to catch drug smugglers and tobacco smugglers but this is just as important … asbestos can cause deaths too,’’ Tighe told The Courier-Mail.
“This could be the tip of the iceberg, what we’re finding — how much are we missing?
“Products are definitely coming into Australia. Who wants their kids chewing on a crayon that might have asbestos?” said Tighe adding that illegal asbestos imports were a “real problem’’ because some Chinese manufacturers and importers lied to Customs officers, builders and retailers.
“The certification documents from China really don’t hold any water. The problem is if a product comes out of China, and China still mines asbestos, you’re going to see a degree of contamination. In cement board, they still use asbestos in the mix,” said Tighe.
“If we don’t control this area, we’ll end up with a second legacy of asbestos — and we won’t know where it is.’’
The Australian government banned all forms of asbestos in 2003 but Chinese manufacturers do not currently classify chrysotile (or white asbestos) as asbestos so manufacturers often declare goods containing it to be to be free of asbestos.
Border Protection says they have identified 8643 shipments as “high risk” for asbestos during 2016/17, but have only examined 761 along with 64 shipments of asbestos-contaminated goods, including children’s crayons, four types of building products, car parts, brake pads and vintage vehicles.
They issued 20 infringements to importers including three to Yuanda and three to AA Gaskets and have taken legal action against Chevron over imports of gaskets in 2012.
Image sourced from Flickr cc: Vin Crosbie