Asbestos-tainted Chinese firm's Australian projects 'need investigation'
The discovery of asbestos in roof panels of WA’s children’s hospital could have far wider implications for other Australian projects that use the same major Chinese supplier, a senior WA Government official has warned.
- Chinese firm has serviced six major construction projects across Australia
- One project includes a medical research centre in Adelaide
- Asbestos also found in fittings supplied to Brisbane project
- Supply-chain integrity questioned
The WA State Government confirmed white asbestos was detected in one of the 150 roof panels in the atrium on the eighth floor of the soon-to-be-opened $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital.
The State Treasury’s executive director of strategic projects and asset sales Richard Mann said other projects serviced by the company that supplied the panels, Yuanda Australia, would now be under the microscope.
“It needs to be understood that this supplier in this case is a very large, international facade specialist, that supplies components to many, many buildings internationally, including Australia,” Mr Mann said.
“So very surprising that we would have such an occurrence in such a well-established manufacturers building components, but recent media has reported similar problems in other projects in Australia as well.
“In this case the only way it could have been picked up was by internally drilling into and sampling an internal panel which had previously been certified as compliant by independent testing.
“I suspect that this may well lead to further investigations in other projects across Australia and perhaps even wider.”
While Mr Mann stressed there was no evidence to suggest asbestos was apparent in any other material supplied by Yuanda Australia for state projects, he said they would need to be investigated.
Yuanda Australia has been involved in the State Government’s Fiona Stanley Hospital and the Perth Stadium.
Yuanda Australia is a subsidiary of Yuanda China Holdings limited, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and installers of primary construction-related products.
Formed in 1993, it is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange with a net asset value of $622 million (RMB 3.1b) and has 11 Chinese subsidiary companies and 18 international.
The firm lists six Australian construction projects it has built the facades for, including three high-rise towers in Brisbane, the South Australian Health and Medical research centre in Adelaide, a high-rise on George Street in Sydney and a three-tower development at Barangaroo South, currently under construction.
It was also involved in construction of the iconic “bird’s nest” national stadium in Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Olympic games.
Asbestos found on Brisbane project
It was revealed on Tuesday an urgent check had been carried out at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital after the discovery of an asbestos-tainted building product in a Brisbane office tower.
The tainted gaskets in Brisbane had been supplied to Yuanda Australia, by Yuanda China, however the checks revealed the suspect gaskets had not been used on the Adelaide hospital.
A company official at the time said the Brisbane case was isolated and the suspect product was not used elsewhere in Australia.
Robert Vojakovic of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia said overseas imports had been known to contain asbestos.
“There’s been common knowledge for the last few years that China was sending stuff to us contaminated with asbestos,” he said.
“We had a similar situation in Alcoa where we examined the gaskets and we found the content was 35 per cent asbestos.”
It was also revealed last month SA-based company Australian Portable Camps was being investigated over imports from China that illegally contained the deadly substance.
Initial testing missed deadly substance
The contaminated panels from Yuanda Australia at the Perth Children’s Hospital were approved to be asbestos free, on two separate occasions.
The first was by an independent testing company in China. John Holland, the building company heading the hospital project, conducted its own independent test in 2013.
Both came back negative for asbestos.
Mr Mann said something must have gone wrong in the supply chain.
“It’s an independent Chinese testing authority, and there’s no reason whatsoever — given it’s an internationally established testing authority — to question the credentials of the testing process,” he said.
“It was also independently checked and verified by John Holland’s technical consultant.
“Obviously something has happened in the supply chain, probably in the manufacturing chain that has slipped through that process and we need to find out what that was.”
Yuanda Australia has been contacted for comment.