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A number of people who lived near the former Wunderlich factory in Melbourne’s west have contacted law firm Slater and Gordon in the wake of an investigation that has linked the site to more than 20 asbestos exposure cases.

Senior asbestos lawyer Margaret Kent, who raised the alarm about the environmental exposure cases in Sunshine North, said the firm had received dozens of calls from current and former residents, following the Herald Sun’s investigation.

“We’ve had calls all day from people who grew up in Sunshine North and we’re assisting them to determine whether they have potential claims for compensation,” Ms Kent said.

“Some people appear to have developed health problems and we need to look at whether there’s a link to the Wunderlich factory.

“Sadly, we’ve also had calls from people who’ve lost loved ones and are now wondering whether their relatives may have been victims of environmental exposure,” she said.

A Herald Sun investigation has found at least 16 people who lived in a one kilometre radius of the Wunderlich factory have died from asbestos-related diseases – including asbestosis and mesothelioma – and another eight have become seriously ill.

The Wunderlich factory was originally owned by the German Wunderlich brothers. CSR – which also owned Western Australia’s Wittenoom mine and was at the centre of one of Australia’s worst industrial and environmental disasters – ran the factory from 1969 to 1977 before selling to James Hardie. The factory ceased operations in the early 1980s.

Ms Kent called on CSR, which is responsible for the liabilities of the factory during the Wunderlich and CSR periods, not to take technical legal points and to deal with claims without delay.

She also urged the Health Department and Environment Protection Authority to properly investigate and act after evidence problems with asbestos in Sunshine North were well known for many years.

“It’s important that as a community we established the extent of Wunderlich’s deadly legacy so that we can assist families who’ve been affected. People were exposed after going about their daily lives, walking past the factory or playing with asbestos as children. We owe it to them to get to the bottom of how this was allowed to happen.

“It’s also paramount authorities do everything possible to clean up the area because while we can’t change what’s happened, we can prevent a similar tragedy in the future.”

Slater and Gordon maintains a comprehensive asbestos register.

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