Is the Australian Government Not  Disturbed By Asbestos In Schools?

Asbestos removal in schools have always been a hot topic of discussion throughout Australia, and for good reason. It seems that most government officials are not really convinced that the complete asbestos removal within schools all over the country is the best solution to the problem, and this statement is what made many parents and teachers angry. The asbestos problem in the school system is very serious and should not be taken lightly.

Asbestos was completely banned in Australia quite recently, merely ten years ago to be exact. This means that asbestos can still be found in most buildings that were constructed prior to 2003, and unfortunately this also includes many government school buildings. Asbestos can be found in floor tiles, the insulation inside the walls, in some masonry work, and a lot of other parts of the buildings. Government officials say that there is no need to worry since asbestos, when well-maintained, will not release any dangerous fibers into the air; the only problem here is that most school buildings in the country are in not in pristine condition.

A recent study showed that more than 70 percent of all schools in the country have asbestos in them; these numbers made parents and teachers alike to demand that the affected schools be labeled and that the staff be trained on how to manage them, and get rid of the hazardous material gradually until no trace of it is left. The problem now is that the education department cannot handle the training of all the affected schools, in fact, there was an incident in one school where workers unknowingly drilled through a wall that allegedly contained asbestos.

Instead of complete asbestos removal, the Australian education department suggested that proper maintenance would be better; citing the fact that the students will be placed at more risk if the asbestos was disturbed. This suggestion obviously did not go well with teachers and parents, they say that it is like the government is telling the schools “they have their own budget so let them deal with it.”, which is quite impossible given the fact that school budgets are pretty small to begin with.

“If asbestos is in good condition and not likely to be disturbed then it is usually safer to manage it than it is to remove it.”

This statement made by the government to support its decision to not implement a total asbestos removal within schools has a couple of holes within it, the most prominent is that even the best asbestos management program can and will fail at some point; and when it does happen a lot of lives will be placed in danger. The sad part about this is that not all the schools are trained for managing asbestos, so the rate of failure will only increase.

“There is no evidence that suggests that asbestos can affect children more than adults.”

This is another misleading statement from the government when they defended their decision to not do asbestos removal within schools. The development of mesothalioma (a chronic illness brought about by exposure to asbestos) actually increases if a person is exposed to asbestos early in life.

“Asbestos will get removed during BSF (Building Schools for the Future) refurbishments.”

This will most likely not happen because the government’s policy with regard to asbestos is that it should not be replaced if it is not even damaged; so this means that the government is not really required to do a complete asbestos removal within schools.

Though there are some truth to the statement that asbestos can be managed, but it will require a lot of resources and knowledge on how to go about doing it, and these are extremely lacking. Just because it was banned back in 2003 it does not mean that the threat from asbestos has gone away; total asbestos removal within schools is still the best course of action.

If you are afraid that your school may contain asbestos, AES can help. We serve the Sydney area and the neighboring towns of Wollongong, Parramatta, Central Coast, Blue Mountains, and others.