Exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, can cause a number of serious illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Due to the deadly nature of this carcinogenic mineral, which was once widely used in many industries for its insulating properties and resistance to fire, the handling and disposal of asbestos is highly regulated. While following the proper asbestos procedures is vital, it can be expensive, which has caused a number of unscrupulous individuals to ignore the rules, putting workers and the public at risk.
The Australian state of New South Wales has recently been swept by a scourge of illegal asbestos dumping. According to a report from the Sun Herald:
It costs about $3,840 Australian to dispose of a truckload of asbestos. This high cost has led to people finding other ways of getting rid of the substance.
About 500,000 tons of asbestos is dumped in the state illegally each year. While the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water could not confirm that figure, it did report that 1,000 tons of sand containing asbestos was recently dumped at a soccer field in Rockdale. Residents told the Sydney Morning Herald that illegal dumpers know how to quickly disguise the substance, using a layer of top soil and covering that with a spray-on lawn treatment.
There was an “an underlying criminal element” connected to the illegal dumping according to Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water specialized regulation director Craig Lamberton. Some of the dumping was connected with criminal gangs, with some cases involving biker group requiring police escort.
Stronger Illegal Asbestos Dumping Fines Needed
Also making the lure of illegal dumping, which is called “tipping” in Australia, stronger is that the penalties, typically just fines, people face are fairly minor. The significant cost advantages of illegal dumping outweigh fines and court costs.
According to Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water waste manager Chris McElwain, fines for illegal dumping in NSW were higher than any other place in the country and that his agency would increase the range of its inspections over the next year to help crack down on illegal dumpers.
Justice for Victims of Asbestos Related Diseases
Ensuring that these criminals are brought to justice is important as their activity puts the public at risk. Since the mid-1960s, the inhalation of asbestos fibers has been known to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of many of the body’s internal organs.
The World Health Organization estimates that asbestos-related diseases claim the lives of 107,000 individuals each year around the globe.
The Sun Herald reports that the department has ordered a court injunction against one of the worst offenders in the state. If Dib Hanna, who was fined $133,000 last year for four asbestos-dumping cases, is caught one more time, he could end up in prison.