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From Then 'til Now
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Army November 11, 2010
Asbestos is a serious threat
By Graham McBean
ASBESTOS Inventory Tiger Team
(AITT) project leader Navy Capt
Alan Johnston has urged Defence
personnel to take the threat of
asbestos in work and home envi-
As the team reaches the end of its
mission to identify and facilitate the
removal of asbestos from the Defence
inventory, Capt Johnston said com-
placency and lack of knowledge
about asbestos was still a concern.
He said more than 700 people died
from asbestos-related diseases each
year but personnel still downplayed
"Young people who are faced with
other risks in our line of work see this
as a very low priority," Capt Johnston
"It is an attitude that can come
back to bite people."
Capt Johnston said even people in
command positions had on occasion
expressed complacency about the risk.
He said in one conversation the
risk posed by asbestos had been
compared to the risk of road fatali-
ties and influenza.
"We need to get people's atten-
tion. Like smoking, it is an avoidable
cause of death, and we need to stop
using it by totally removing it from
"This is not a matter for someone
else to worry about -- asbestos is an
insidious killer with latency periods
Since 1998 the number of annual
deaths attributed to asbestosis
increased from 43 to 109 in 2008.
The number of deaths attributable
to lung cancer and other asbestos-
related diseases is unknown.
Since 1997 the number of annual
deaths has increased from 416 to
628 in 2008.
Main sources of asbestos exposure
are related to old buildings undergo-
ing renovation, demolition and build-
ing maintenance with products from
the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Asbestos related diseases in Austra-
lia will not peak for some time due
to the long latency period associated
with these diseases.
ASBESTOS -- THE HIDDEN KILLER
of between 10 to 40 years."
The AITT has so far facilitated the
removal of more than 63,000 pieces
of asbestos-containing material from
the Defence inventory since the pro-
ject was raised in January last year.
It is expected to finish its inspec-
tion program of 1128 units by the
end of this year and complete a 're-
validation' of 50 units before wind-
ing up in early 2011.
Capt Johnston said the AITT had
been a "big-bang" approach and
had made important in-roads as part
of the broader policy of zero toler-
ance of asbestos in accordance with
But he said there was an ongo-
ing need to maintain awareness that
asbestos may be present in the sys-
"The AITT has been an important
tool in casting a trained eye over
holdings and identifying asbestos-
containing material and, when in
doubt, sending suspect material off
"At present the hit rate for find-
ing asbestos in material submitted
for testing is about 36 per cent.
"So one third of everything we
test comes back with a positive find-
ing for asbestos -- that is a surpris-
ingly high number and goes to show
the worth of the inspection pro-
He said personnel should also be
mindful of encountering asbestos in
the home environment in such things
as fibro sheeting and roof insulation.
"People should take precau-
tions when renovating their home or
knocking down that backyard fibro
Further information is available at http://
or phone (02) 6265 6252. Information on
precautions to take when renovating your
house can be obtained by visiting the NSW
Government website www.nsw.gov.au/fibro
Warning signs: The dangers of asbestos should not be taken lightly.
By Graham Davis
NO SERVING soldier or Defence
veteran in the Cairns region need
go homeless thanks to an emergen-
cy accommodation initiative of the
Queensland RSL using funds raised
through its annual Poppy Appeal.
Mates Place has two one-bedroom
studio apartments and is part of a reno-
vated former motel.
It takes to three the number of emer-
gency accommodation centres the
Queensland RSL has set up in the state.
The others are Angus House in Brisbane
and Nui Dat House on the Gold Coast.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh
launched the 2010 RSL Poppy Appeal in
Brisbane's Queen Street Mall on October
29 in front of about 300. At the launch,
Queensland RSL Branch president Doug
Formby said the RSL had provided the
funds to set up Mates Place.
"There are two apartments available
for short-term emergency accommoda-
tion. If a serving soldier or other Defence
member finds they are without a roof, we
can help. The same goes for a Defence
veteran," Mr Formby said.
Setting up emergency accommoda-
tion centres is just one initiative RSL
Queensland targets with Poppy Appeal
It will be used to expand PAWS --
Pensions, Advocacy and Welfare Service
-- to provide additional welfare support in
regional Queensland and to send welfare
packs to ADF members serving overseas.
RSL opens Mates
Place in Cairns
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