Sydney asbestos sites climb to 47

Asbestos sites in Sydney have risen to 47, following tests across Australia's largest city in recent days.
Asbestos sites in Sydney

Parks, schools, a supermarket and an aged care facility are among the 47 Sydney sites where asbestos has been detected this month, amid a wide-scale investigation by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Inhaling asbestos particles can cause life-threatening diseases, including cancer.

Asbestos sites in Sydney

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in soil or rocks. When broken up, asbestos can release toxic particles into the air.

There are two different types of materials containing asbestos: friable and non-friable.

Non-friable materials include asbestos mixed with other substances like cement, but won’t release asbestos fibres unless damaged. However, friable materials can easily crumble to release asbestos.

Asbestos testing

Testing has found asbestos in mulch at several sites across Sydney. An EPA investigation into how asbestos was allowed onto these sites is ongoing.

Yesterday asbestos was detected at six more sites, including the discovery of friable asbestos at the Glebe foreshore, which has now been fenced off.

Asbestos has now been found in mulch at multiple schools, including in Five Dock and Penrith. It was also found at an aged care facility in St Ives and a church in Oran Park. The church is close to two Catholic schools, which will now also undergo precautionary testing.

About 15% of all sites recently tested have returned a positive result. Sites containing asbestos have been closed off from public use.

NSW Government response

NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said the government is tracing the supply chain to identify all the positive sites.

Last week, Sharpe announced a formal taskforce to support the EPA, given the scale of the issue.

Sharpe said the EPA investigation was the largest in decades, and said the government is considering greater penalties for companies found to have supplied mulch-containing asbestos.

The Opposition has criticised the Government for how the issue is being communicated to the public, saying: “The first time people hear about a contaminated site shouldn’t be when fences are going up or the media reports it.”

Asbestos safety advice

NSW Health says Sydneysiders should avoid contact with sites that have been positively identified as containing asbestos.

It also says there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Those concerned that they may have been exposed to asbestos should contact NSW Health.

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