Leading asbestos law firm Slater and Gordon has questioned how tens of thousands of cars containing the deadly cancer-causing fibre were imported into Australia.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today issued an alert about asbestos fibres contained in engine and exhaust gaskets in approximately 23,000 Great Wall and Chery vehicles imported into the country from China.
According to the ACCC website, the vehicle’s distributor, Alteco, has instructed all Chery and Great Wall dealers to stop selling affected vehicles and recalled all gaskets that were distributed as spare parts.
The ACCC has also issued a warning against undertaking any do-it-yourself maintenance on the cars.
Slater and Gordon Asbestos Practice Group Leader Joanne Wade said it was outrageous that Australian consumers were still being exposed to asbestos in new products despite the known risks to public health.
“I find it appalling that, despite thousands of asbestos-related deaths in recent decades and the fact that substance has been banned in Australia since 2004, new products are still finding their way to consumers that contain asbestos,” Ms Wade said.
She called on the automotive industry and its regulators to review the procedures for detecting asbestos in vehicles bought into Australia.
“All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organisation, so there is no excuse to be finding it on showroom floors in this country.”
Asbestos was used as a component in brake linings until December 2003 when an Australia-wide ban on the importation, manufacture and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos containing products took effect.
“It is terrible that a whole new set of people could now potentially be exposed to the deadly dust when there is an Australia-wide ban on the importation of all forms of asbestos-containing products. That this has happened is unbelievable.”
Slater and Gordon have acted for many motor mechanics in the past who have contracted asbestos-related diseases from repairing brakes and replacing gaskets.
In December 2005, the firm negotiated a $4.5 billion settlement with James Hardie on behalf of unions and people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases after being exposed to the substance while working for the company.