More than 150 households across Sydney are now at risk of asbestos exposure by living on or near former James Hardie waste disposal sites in the City of Parramatta Council, according to The Sydney Morning Herald report. Some of the affected residents have lived in the area for more than three decades, all the while being unaware of the health risks in their vicinity.
How Dangerous is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a heat-resistant material commonly used in construction projects before 1980, but it was only in 2003 that the Australian government banned the use of all products containing asbestos. There was, initially, a general lack of awareness of just how hazardous asbestos is to one’s health. This, since the symptoms of mesothelioma—a rare, asbestos-related cancer—take an average of 50 years from first exposure before they appear. Today, the government allows only qualified professionals to perform asbestos disposal in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, and other major cities.
Lives are Now at Risk
Now that they’re aware of the risks of asbestos exposure in their area, the residents near the former James Hardie waste disposal sites are now clamouring for a better handling of the situation. After all, they found out that what the council recently discovered in their area is friable asbestos, the kind that easily crumbles and becomes airborne.
The City of Parramatta Council first began performing asbestos inspection in the city in 2007, after James Hardie Industries, handed over details of their former disposal sites in the city, following an order from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). The problem, however, is that authorities failed to identify some of the sites due to inaccuracies in the information provided by James Hardie Industries. Unfortunately, these unidentified former disposal sites had been developed into residential areas; hence, hundreds of lives are now at risk.
Steps have now been taken to address the issue; however, most of the residents feel that these efforts towards remediation may be a bit too late. Now, they are just hoping that no one from their community develops the deadly mesothelioma in the future and that this tragedy won’t happen again in another city.