Archive for the ‘asbestos’ Category


New research body targets cure for asbestos illnesses

It is hoped a new Brisbane-based research group can help improve treatments and quality of life for people with asbestos-related diseases.

The Asbestos Research Group, based at Brisbane’s Wesley Hospital, will examine the progression of diseases like mesothelioma and the impact of reduced lung capacity.

Karen Banton, the widow of mesothelioma victim and campaigner Bernie Banton, says while a cure for the disease is a long way off, more can be done in the short term.

“To give better quality of life, improved quality of life to asbestos sufferers and also to make it easier for their families,” she said.

“Just to give them hope really that what they’re going through will not befall other families and that one day there will be a cure for these insidious diseases.”

Dr Roger Allen says about 27,000 Australians will die from mesothelioma in the next 40 years and researchers are hoping to find a cure.

“I think that’s a long way off but we have to start somewhere,” he said.

“We don’t even know why certain types of asbestos cause mesothelioma – they occur in various ratios so that some types of asbestos fibres are more virulent than others, are more likely to produce cancer.

“They’re really basic questions that we can’t even answer, let alone treat it.”


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Formaldehyde is the next asbestos: CFMEU

Formaldehyde is used in particle board and furniture.

Formaldehyde is used in particle board and furniture. (Image courtesy of Jacci Howard Bear)

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Australia’s biggest building union is calling for the Federal Government to start an urgent large-scale investigation into the use of formaldehyde in household products.

It says formaldehyde is as dangerous as asbestos and should be subject to stringent laws.

The Government has already confirmed up to 50 Northern Territory intervention staff and police officers were exposed to concerning levels of the substance in the converted shipping containers they were living in for six months.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says the incident exposed a major health concern that could affect millions of Australians.

It says high levels of the dangerous carcinogen could be found in thousands of Australian homes as it is used in particle board and furniture.

The CFMEU’s health and safety coordinator, Martin Kingham, says union members are exposed to the potentially carcinogenic substance in their daily work and the health concerns extend to householders as well.

Mr Kingham says union workers have reported a range of detrimental health effects from short-term exposure including asthma, breathing difficulties, skin irritations, severe excema and dizziness.

He says American studies have shown a serious cancer risk associated with the substance.

“With the combination of both those short-term exposures but also the potential of increased cancer risks with long-term exposure that’s a convincing argument that we should be using the safest standard possible here in Australia,” he said.

“There’s also a long-term health effect for ordinary householders – particularly when you think of a kitchen, kitchen cupboards, that’s where you store food, and tests have indicated that the formaldehyde cures out of the product into the air for up to 20 years after it’s been installed.”

Mr Kingham says there is a voluntary formaldehyde content standard that Australian manufacturers comply with, but imported particle and chip boards often contain up to four times the acceptable level.

He says only legislation will stop the import of products containing unacceptable levels of formaldehyde.

“One of the things we’re asking the Federal Government to do is to in fact put some teeth to legislate as they have done for materials that contain asbestos, and in fact make it an offence for people to import products that are hazardous and are recognised as being outside the Australian exposure standard,” he said.

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Asbestos being cleaned up at ABB site

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A clean up plan is agreed on for contaminated soil at a site at Outer Harbor.

A union says work can resume at a building site at Outer Harbor in Adelaide where landfill is contaminated with asbestos.

Construction work stopped at the ABB Grain silo site last week when traces of asbestos were found in more than 17,000 tonnes of soil that had been brought in as landfill.

Tests by SafeWork SA showed the contamination was within levels considered safe but a union refused to let work continue until the soil was dealt with.

Colin Fenney from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union says a clean-up should be finished by Monday and the process also includes contacting everyone who has been involved with the site.

“We’re making sure through the process here that everybody thats worked on this site, been in contact with this site, will be recommended to fill the forms out and make sure they get put on this asbestos register,” he said.

“So if there’s something later on down the track they know exactly where they got [it].

“Hopefully people won’t have to use it, but it’s a record of the people that have been on site and possibly could have been exposed to it (asbestos).”

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Asbestos fight at grain silo site

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The CFMEU says no level of asbestos is safe and it wants the landfill removed (file photo).

A union wants work on the ABB grain silos at Outer Harbor in Adelaide to stop until soil contaminated with asbestos is removed from the site.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union says more than 17,000 tonnes of contaminated soil has been transported to the site for landfill.

Government inspectors say the asbestos component is 1 per cent or less.

But Martin O’Malley from the union says he is not satisfied that workers are safe.

“The EPA (Environment Protection Authority) last week went down there with the department, SafeWork SA department, and they discover, yes, there was asbestos there but their view was it wasn’t of a magnitude to worry anyone,” he said.

“Well our view is if there’s asbestos there, there’s asbestos there. There’s no safe levels of asbestos.”

SafeWork SA says the asbestos cannot become airborne and any exposed fragments are being collected by a worker in protective clothing.

It says monitoring at the site has found the level of airborne particles is well below risk levels.

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Banton family accepts state funeral

Bernie Banton is being remembered as a tireless campaigner for the victims of asbestos

State funeral: Bernie Banton is being remembered as a tireless campaigner for the victims of asbestos (AAP Image: Mick Tsikas)

A friend of Bernie Banton’s family says they have accepted the offer of a state funeral for the asbestos-disease campaigner, who died early this morning at home at the age of 61.

The offer came from New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma. The details of the funeral are expected to be released later today.

Mr Banton, who was diagnosed with the virulent stomach cancer peritoneal mesothelioma in August this year, was a long-time sufferer of the lung condition asbestosis and asbestos-related pleural disease (ARPD).

He passed away at home at about 1:00am AEDT.

Mr Iemma also says the Dust Diseases Ward at Sydney’s Concord Hospital, where Mr Banton was being treated until the weekend, will be renamed in his honour tomorrow.

Rudd’s tribute

Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd, who received a huge cheer when he mentioned Mr Banton in his election victory speech on Saturday night, paid tribute this morning.

“Australia is going to be poorer for Bernie’s passing,” he said.

“He became a symbol, a living symbol, of what is right and decent and proper in the workplace relations of this country.

“Bernie’s great great contribution was as a fighter. A real fighter.

“Not just in terms of his own struggle with this disease personally but in his struggle with that company to get justice for the people who suffered as a result of working there. And Bernie won.”

Former NSW Premier Bob Carr says Mr Banton’s legacy includes the improvement of research into asbestos-related diseases.

Mr Carr, a notable supporter of Mr Banton’s, will today chair the first meeting of the board of the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, which is being built at Concord Hospital.

He says Mr Banton played a major role in the institute’s creation.

“Bernie insisted on this and this is his great tribute,” he said.

“At the start of the meeting today I’ll ask everyone to participate in two minutes’ silence for the memory of a great personality, a great spirit,” he said.

Hardie’s condolences

Mr Banton worked with asbestos products during the 1960s and 1970s when he was an employee at a James Hardie plant.

Mr Banton and his mini-oxygen tank would later become synonymous with claims for compensation from the company for thousands of asbestos victims, including a $4 billion deal approved this year.

The company has released a statement expressing its condolences.

In its statement, James Hardie says it acknowledges the significant contribution Mr Banton made to raising awareness of asbestos-related diseases in Australia.

It also acknowledges his role in the negotiations over its fund to compensate Australians with asbestos-related personal injury claims.

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JH settles with dying Banton

Asbestos sufferer Bernie Banton

Doctors say Bernie Banton has only about a week to live (File Photo). (AAP: Dean Lewins)

The former James Hardie building company has settled a second compensation claim brought by former worker Bernie Banton, who doctors say has only about a week to live.

Mr Banton’s barrister Jack Rush QC has told the New South Wales Dust Diseases Tribunal that an agreement has been reached and the terms of the settlement are still being worked out.

The tribunal is in its second day of hearing evidence in the case.

Mr Banton, who is gravely ill in hospital, is being compensated for the asbestos-related form of stomach cancer, peritoneal mesothelioma.

The trial heard earlier today that management at the higher levels of James Hardie were aware of the dangers of asbestos-related diseases in the 1960s, before Mr Banton had even begun working for the company.

Mr Banton had already been compensated for the lung disease, asbestosis.

Mr Banton’s wife Karen says the case was about achieving justice.

“Relieved, very relieved that it’s all over and satisfied… I’m just numb,” she said.

“I could never say I’m happy. It was never about money. It’s just a relief.”

His solicitor Tanya Segelov says the case has set a precedent.

“We imagine there will be other similar cases. The law allowing for further damages has been in place since 1995,” she said.

“Now remarkably this is the first time someone has brought a claim for further damages. But it is likely there’ll be other claims in the future.”

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Original story

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITWF) says the Chinese Government has not told its crew on a bulk carrier in north Queensland about the dangers of asbestos.

The hazardous product was found on the Panamanian-registered bulk carrier Sea Sparkle at a Townsville dock three days ago, and this morning work was again halted on the ship because of old and faulty cranes.But federation spokesman Dean Summers says nothing has been done to reduce the exposure of the Chinese workers, who were ordered to handle six bags of asbestos without protective equipment.That asbestos was removed from the ship yesterday, although there is more on board and Mr Summers says the Chinese Government has not told the crew about the dangers of asbestos.”We know this because there’s a notice been sent to us on Cosco [Shipyard Group] letterhead to say that asbestos is completely harmless,” he said.”It is unbelievable, and even coming from China we would’ve expected the dangers of asbestos would be not only recognised and identified but prevented from coming into contact with their workers.”Mr Summers says now the ITWF has stepped up its involvement in the issue and ordered a string of different tests.”The International Transport Workers Federation have insisted to the Chinese company and to the Australian charterers that a full audit of asbestos be done on that ship,” he said.”That would include air testing, that the crew be X-rayed and put on a register and that a safety management procedure be put on board that vessel so that any hazardous conditions can be properly managed.”

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