Asbestos scare grips Australia as Chinese panels test toxic in kids’ hospital

The government of Western Australia (WA) will carry out an audit of the products of Chinese materials supplier Yuanda after white asbestos was discovered in roof panels by a worker at the under-construction Perth Children’s Hospital last week.

Main contractor on the A$1.2bn scheme, Chinese-owned John Holland, was today holding one-on-one meetings with all workers who may have had contact with the panels.

Government tests confirmed on Thursday that the tiles contained white asbestos, or chrysotile, after a union commissioned its own test when a worker raised the alarm.

The worker is reported to have cut into a tile and discovered traces of what looked like the banned substance earlier in the week.

Yuanda’s Australian managing director Paul Dawson said he expected results today on sample testing of the other products, and claimed his company had been the victim of fraudulent test certificates provided by two Chinese suppliers, reports newspaper The Australian.

This is only the first step in a wide-ranging investigation– Peter Gow, WA Building Commissioner

The discovery occurred on level 8 of the hospital and the area has been sealed off, according to the WA department of heath.

The department said air sampling tests at the site over a 48-hour period, by three independent testing organisations, have all returned negative results for asbestos.

In a statement on Friday the contractor John Holland said there are approximately 150 atrium rooftop panels that may contain asbestos. It said the panels were delivered fully encapsulated and present no risk to people if the casing is not penetrated. However, it will now replace all the panels.

"Yuanda Australia provided John Holland with inspection and test certificates for all of its products supplied and installed at the PCH project," the company stated.

"Specifically, these inspection and test certificates confirmed that the atrium roof top panels did not contain asbestos.

"Actions will be taken to investigate and determine the failure of this process, but it will not delay the replacement of the panels."

Earlier this month is emerged that Yuanda also supplied metal skirting contaminated with asbestos to a tower under construction in Brisbane that will become the Queensland government’s new executive building.

WA Building Commissioner Peter Gow announced on Friday that he will carry out an independent audit of the use of Yuanda products all over the state, starting with Perth Children’s Hospital (pictured).

Gow told reporters that at least 10 buildings in the state would be tested.

"This is only the first step in a wide-ranging investigation," Gow said, adding that regulators are also working to identify how this product containing asbestos was able to enter the country, and would take action against builders or importers if required.

"If during the investigation there is any evidence of inappropriate or improper conduct, it will be dealt with accordingly by the relevant regulator," he said.

The A$1.2bn Perth Children’s Hospital is being built on the QEII Medical Centre site in Nedlands and will be the state’s dedicated children’s hospital. It was due to open in October 2016.

Exposure to white asbestos can lead to ling diseases such as cancer and mesothelioma.

Image: Around 150 roof tiles are thought to be contaminated with white asbestos at the Perth Children’s Hospital, show here under construction (John Holland)

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  1. This ought to prompt an initial investigation in the UK and elsewhere for potential import of yuanda-supplied products and thereafter (in junction with the Australian authorities) whether certifications etc have properly made for any such imports so recorded.

  2. This poses the question: the presence of the asbestos fibre is undetectable while it is encased in the main body of the material during the production process! Would it not then be more advisable to stem the use of asbestos to the very factory using it in their production process? Has any research been done on a suitable substitute fibre to asbestos? The mining of asbestos anywhere cannot be justified on any grounds! Thus only the highly medically approved substitutes should be allowed as part of the production process in the factories!

  3. This demonstrates the blatant disregard held by China in regards safety and requirements of countries it supplies.
    It also demonstrates what Britain can expect as we expand trade with China especially in light of Brexit and the safeguardsurrounding the EU promoted. CAWR and a lot of other regulations will in time be watered down.

  4. Over the years many Chinese construction materials have been suspect and this is one to add to a more recent report that Chinese manufactured steel components have been condemned on some sites in the UK. With the UK now on the road to exiting the EU there has been comment that imports from other countries around the world can increase. Isn’t this now the time to get better controls on imports from China and any other countries found to be trying to cheat our regulations.

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