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Government to halt asbestos and HCFC imports

The Government will soon move to stop remaining imports of products with asbestos content, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced today.

It also intended to ban the import of new bulk hydrochlorofluorocarbons, another substance with known risks to both the environment and human health, Smith said.

“Asbestos use is still killing 250 New Zealanders per year in terms of occupational deaths from historic misuse and mismanagement.”

Opening a gathering of 200 scientists attending the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s Australasia conference at Nelson’s Rutherford Hotel, he said “targeted consultation” was set begin on both.

“Already New Zealand has all but phased out these substances so the number of businesses expected to be affected is low. The Ministry for the Environment will be contacting these businesses directly about the proposed regulations and work with them on alternatives.”

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Pacific region awash with asbestos

For the first time, authorities in the Pacific now have an idea of just how much asbestos there is in the region, and are trying to work out how to get rid of it before it becomes a health risk.

survey has found that some South Pacific countries are awash with the hazardous building material which can lead to lung diseases or cancer.

The Pacific environment agency SPREP says that until now there’s only been anecdotal evidence about the quantity and condition of asbestos in the region.

SPREP’s Pacwaste project manager, Stewart Williams, says the survey, done with European Union assistance, found that the once-common building material is widespread, including in public buildings such as schools and hospitals.

“Primarily in buildings, in roofing material, in wall material, sometimes in flooring, and also in water pipes. The condition, compared to what it would be in Australia and New Zealand is that it’s typically not painted, and so it is quite weathered. So therefore what we’ve got is we’ve got asbestos that’s in poor condition which shows that there is risk.”

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