Asbestos Scare for Students at Queensland School

MURRUMBA DOWNS, Australia–Workers cut Fibro brand wall sheeting in a classroom, just meters from a play area at the Undurba State School, in Murrumba Downs, north of Brisbane. This created a dust cloud that could have students and staff exposed to the asbestos fibre.

The construction took place during a school lunch break on April 7. The Year 3 double-sized classroom is not supposed to be used while the decontamination work goes on.

Computers and other resources have been thrown out and new carpet was put in the classroom last week.

An expert in asbestos management conducted an air test on Friday. Teachers and other staff members refuse to re-enter the school until those test results are verified.

A letter was sent home to the students’ parents after the incident, telling them what had occurred.

The letter reported that the air conditioning installation came to a halt after “staff observed incorrect procedures being used.”

“It was confirmed wall sheeting in the classroom contained asbestos,” the letter read.

Steve Ryan, president of the Queensland Teachers Union believes that the incident violated the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations, and has written to Education Queensland on the matter.

Older-style Fibro wall sheeting can contain up to 15 per cent of asbestos fiber. Asbestos, which is now a well-known carcinogen, was widely used due to its heat, chemical, and electric resistance. It is still found in older infrastructures and insulation, and has been linked to various asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

Flinders University medical expert Professor Douglas Henderson reported that having little exposure to the dust would result in a low risk of contracting a disease. It is currently unknown how much asbestos it takes to contract a disease, but no exposure is safe.

Carol Gardiner’s son, Dylan, was one of the students who was relocated from the asbestos contained classroom.

“I would like an explanation and assurance there was no asbestos contamination,” she said.