Guide more harm than good: GARDS

A “MISLEADING” asbestos guide for homeowners is still widely available on a government website, despite assurances from a federal minister steps would be taken to have it removed.

In September at an asbestos summit, Federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten labelled the guide as misleading and did not support it.

He also said he has made his views known to the Department of Health and Ageing; however, the guide was still available on its website.

Gippsland Asbestos Related Disease Support group members will protest against the guide’s existence at an Asbestos Awareness Week event in the Latrobe Valley tomorrow.

GARDS chair Vicki Hamilton said the week’s events, which highlight the dangers of asbestos exposure, would be undermined by the guide.

Ms Hamilton said the guide, ‘Asbestos: a guide for households and the general public’, contains statements written in a manner that “lets people think it is okay to be exposed to asbestos now and then and you probably won’t get sick”.

“Because the federal and state health departments say exposure is alright occasionally people will think it is okay to allow themselves to do an unsafe practice now and then and will not protect themselves or their family,” she said.

A Department of Health and Ageing spokesperson said the guide was developed “because so many Australians undertake home repairs and renovations” and its aim was to minimise the risk to people.

With no immediate plans to remove the guide from the website it is available from, the department has said the guide was out of print and the producers were working on a new version, which will be available in the next few months.

“The enHealth Standing Committee is reviewing how the key messages are delivered in the next iteration against the evidence, and will consider the views of stakeholder groups in this process,” the spokesperson said.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Chris Baggoley, held discussions with stakeholder groups, including GARDS, last month, where Ms Hamilton said she told him “to get rid of the book until it is fixed”.

“He said to us ‘the intention was to strike a balance between a cavalier approach and scaring the bejesus out of people’,” she said.