A proactive approach can prevent the inadvertent importation of products containing asbestos - saving considerable cost.

There’s been a great deal of coverage in the media recently related to the importation of asbestos materials inside products manufactured in China. This is a significant issue to Australian importers and it not only relates to products imported from China but most other Asian countries.

Inconsistent approach to asbestos across the region

One issue is that some countries don’t have the same concerns or legal framework as Australia and asbestos is treated much more casually. In some Asian countries a product is declared asbestos free if it contains less than 10% asbestos - in Australia imported products need to be 100% asbestos free.

Assurances and certifications offer no certainty

Asian manufacturers are often aware of Australia’s stringent requirements and will try to placate the Australian business with written assurances, supply certificates and product specifications stating “Asbestos Free”. They may even engage “local in country” contractors to complete asbestos surveys and provide reports to clear manufactured products of asbestos.

Based on the thousands of surveys conducted by Coffey we estimate that around 10% of items declared “Asbestos Free” by the manufacturer will in fact contain asbestos material.  For example, we have found asbestos in gaskets, brake pads, wall panels, chipboard, resin, floor and ceiling tiles, children’s crayons, woven products such as rope.

We’ve experienced manufacturers supplying the Australian purchaser an asbestos free product for testing and analysis and then install asbestiform materials in the final product.

To complicate matters further often the packaging material can contain asbestos. This could be anything from end plates or protective blanketing material to the gluts that the goods are seated on.

Customs are aware and vigilant so more and more imported products are being stopped, however this comes at a significant cost to the importer. Not to mention the risk to reputation and public health if something does get through.

What should you be doing if your company is importing products from China or elsewhere in Asia?

We can help you manage your risk by conducting an independent review of your supply chain and arrange for testing of materials or surveys.

Coffey is an ISO17020 accredited company and is NATA accredited for asbestos surveys and clearances.