Australian Department of Defense Wants to Use Asbestos

Australia’s Department of Defense has come under fire by asbestos-disease advocates for publicly stating that they want to continue using spare parts and equipment containing asbestos because they can’t find a reasonable alternative.

In 2004, notes an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, the department was given a three-year exemption from laws banning the use of products containing asbestos to give it time to replace existing parts. However, with that deadline on the horizon, Defense has asked for another three years. They want to keep using such asbestos-containing equipment as brake pads, gaskets, seals, fire barriers, insulation and packaging, the article points out.

The navy has listed more than 130,000 items of equipment parts that contain asbestos. The air force and army have listed hundreds of products containing asbestos that are still in use, says the article. These include the P3 Orion aircraft, the Iroquois, Kiowa and Black Hawk helicopters, and a range of vehicles including Land Rovers, trailers and artillery pieces.

Experts say alternatives are available to replace asbestos-containing parts but the Department of Defense has failed to make the change. Thousands of Department of Defense personnel have already been sickened with or died from asbestos-related diseases.

Executive director of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Victoria, Leigh Hubbard, said he was horrified Defense was seeking a further exemption.

“If this exemption goes ahead we are likely to see several dozen more victims added to the list, he said. They should be like every other workplace in the country that’s been forced to find non-asbestos substitutes and have a zero tolerance attitude.”

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