National asbestos map being developed by federal government

The federal government is developing a national asbestos map. Picture: Rohan Thomson
The federal government is developing a national asbestos map. Picture: Rohan Thomson

A national public database that could help predict which homes across the country contain asbestos is being developed by the federal government.

A national residential asbestos heatmap, which will draw on pre-existing state and territory data along with artificial intelligence, is in the early stages of being produced by the Commonwealth's asbestos safety agency.

The heatmap, being developed by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, will help to forecast where building materials that contain asbestos are in residential properties.

The agency's chief executive Justine Ross told The Canberra Times the new technology aimed to help eliminate asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

"In order to prevent exposure, we need to better understand the density and location of asbestos materials, particularly in the residential environment where information is not centralised," Ms Ross said.

"We look forward to partnering with the successful company to leverage technology that will collate intelligence to allow governments to better plan and manage Australia's harmful asbestos legacy."

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Tenders for the project have been released by the federal government, with a timeline to finish the project by March 2022.

It's estimated the asbestos heatmap could cost up to $250,000 to develop, according to tender documents.

The national heatmap was a recommendation under the Asbestos National Strategic Plan, which has been endorsed by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments.

A spokeswoman for the federal asbestos agency said the project would help to centralise pre-existing data about the location of homes with asbestos.

"While asbestos registers exist in the commercial and public sectors, the dispersed information in the residential sector has without the aid of technology made understanding the density and location of Australia's asbestos legacy in homes across the whole country difficult," the spokeswoman said.

"The aim is to develop an evidence-based national picture by using existing data combined with emerging and cutting edge technology to estimate the number of homes in Australia that are predicted to still contain asbestos and to identify their geographic location."

A smaller version of the asbestos map has been completed in the residential sector, using artificial intelligence and high-resolution images.

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The technology used to create the residential sector map will then be used on a wider scale to complete the national map.

It's expected information on Mr Fluffy homes in the ACT will also be used to compile data for the project.

It comes as the federal government announced earlier this year a fund for Mr Fluffy asbestos victims to help cover medical expenses.

The Commonwealth in May agreed to contribute $8 million towards the ACT-run program, with the territory government administering the fund while also matching the federal contribution.

At the time of the scheme's announcement, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said while the remediation of Mr Fluffy homes had been successful, more Canberrans will be seen in the future as suffering the impacts of asbestos exposure.

"This scheme is an important next step in the government's future response to the legacy of Mr Fluffy," Mr Barr said in May.

It's hoped the new national map will help to inform initiatives such as future disposal facilities and targeted home renovator information campaigns.

"Asbestos materials are known to be a health concern and all asbestos products are now starting to reach the end of their lifespan," the asbestos agency spokeswoman said.

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This story National map to track asbestos sites first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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