The Age, an Australian news agency, disclosed that thousands of defense personnel had likely been exposed to asbestos because the Navy was still illegally using asbestos parts on ships and bases.
The Age also reported that the Australian Defense Forces had been warned by the government’s workplace security force, Comcare, that the use of the asbestos was jeopardizing the safety of its soldiers, sailors and air force personnel.
On January 1, 2004, Australia put into place a strict, nationwide ban on the importation or use of any asbestos containing products or materials, but the government there has continued to grant exemptions to the Navy. An organization that provides support for asbestosis and mesothelioma victims has demanded that a royal commission be appointed to investigate.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, caused by asbestos exposure, that usually ends in death. It attacks the organs’ linings and symptoms are similar to common viral infections such as the flu.
According to the defense contractor’s findings, Australian naval stores are currently housing approximately 250,000 asbestos containing parts, and these parts are still routinely shipped to naval bases.
Australia’s union movement demanded that all asbestos be removed immediately from Australia Defense Force bases and equipment.
David Oliver, National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, wrote to acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard demanding for an immediate ban on the use of asbestos in the ADF.
The Age obtained a secret report, sent to highly placed military officers, which said that thousands of personnel had likely been exposed and that consequences are potentially catastrophic.
Oliver says the daily asbestos exposure is unacceptable considering the national ban on asbestos was introduced to Australia five years ago.
According to a report, the Australian Defense Force, a leading Australian defense contractor, could eventually be charged with violations of national work safety laws resulting in $100 million or more in fines.
Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says that the Navy has until next year to eradicate the parts which contain asbestos.