Australian authorities say more Sydney sites tainted with asbestos

Australian authorities say more Sydney sites tainted with asbestos
Australian authorities say more Sydney sites tainted with asbestos

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - The Central Business District (CBD) skyline is pictured at sunset in Sydney, Australia. ― Reuters pic

SYDNEY, Feb 17 ― Australian authorities said today asbestos had been discovered in more places in Sydney, including housing estates, as the New South Wales government continued a weeks-long scramble to remove the toxic material from mulch used in public areas.

The contamination was discovered in January when asbestos was found in a playground in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, and subsequent investigations spotted it in recycled mulch near the park, built above an underground road interchange.

Since then, in what is the biggest investigation by the state's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in decades, 32 city sites have returned positive results for bonded asbestos, the agency said in a statement today.

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The EPA said new sites where asbestos had been detected were a public school and park in the city's north, and two residential estates under construction in Sydney's south-west.

The University of Sydney had also been identified as potentially tainted and would be tested this weekend, it said.

EPA head Tony Chappel said a concert by pop superstar Taylor Swift set to take place next weekend in the city's west would go ahead, despite asbestos concerns nearby.

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“Government has ensured any necessary resources for remediation should they be required are in place and we can make sure that site is in the clear for the Taylor Swift event,” Chappel said in Sydney.

Authorities this week cordoned off areas in several contaminated Sydney parks, forcing the cancellation of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Fair Day event scheduled for Sunday, which usually draws tens of thousands of revellers, after traces of asbestos were found around the venue.

Transport projects, a primary school, a warehouse and a hospital have also been confirmed as contaminated.

Since January 10, the EPA says it has taken almost 300 samples citywide, with 10 per cent testing positive for asbestos.

In response, the New South Wales government has set up a dedicated asbestos task force to give more resources and support to the EPA as it investigates the widening contamination.

Asbestos became popular in late 19th century as a way to reinforce cement and for fire-proofing, but research later found that the inhalation of asbestos fibres could cause lung inflammation and cancer. It is now banned in much of the world. ― Reuters

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