Asbestos shock

A SON’S attempt to help his aged father clean up around his East Fremantle home has taken a terrible turn, with the local council declaring it a contaminated site.

White Gum Valley resident Karl Svatos helped demolish some old aviaries in his dad’s backyard last month and put the material onto the verge for East Fremantle’s regular bulk collection, along with some old furniture and other bits and pieces.

But Mr Svatos said the garbos refused to take the rubbish because they believed the old aviaries had been made from asbestos.

Laboratory testing ordered by the council confirmed their suspicions.

“My father bought the material in the 80s from Bunnings, and was told at the time that it wasn’t asbestos; that it couldn’t be asbestos because that was banned,” Mr Svatos told the Herald.

• Karl Svatos has been left with a big clean-up bill after his dad’s house was declared a contaminated site. Photo by SteveGrant

But it appears Mr Svatos’s father might have been caught out by the lag in the federal authorities banning brown and white asbestos products.

Blue asbestos (crocidolite) was banned in 1967 after its health impacts became public, but manufacturer James Hardie continued to use white asbestos (chrysolite) until the mid-80s in a range of products. Many people believed them to be asbestos-free.

White asbestos wasn’t officially banned in Australia until December 2003 and its safety is still being debated today; in April the International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations declared it safe if handled correctly on the back of scientific research showing the mineral’s shorter fibres might not increase the risk of developing asbestos-related disease.

But that’s no comfort to Mr Svatos, who’ll have to foot the bill for clearing his dad’s verge.

He’s unhappy there’s no appeal over the council’s decision, and says the testing procedure used is based on 20-year-old science, while there are more accurate methods available.

He’s also worried there might be others who might be in the same boat, unaware of potential health risks around their house.


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