An asbestos safety alert has been issued after the potentially dangerous rock samples contained in some science education kits were purchased by 24 NT schools.
Asbestos warning for NT schools after dangerous substance found in science kits
NT Worksafe said the warning came from the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency after asbestos, under a variety of names, was found in some of the mineral kits which have been sold throughout Australia and continue to be available for sale online.
"Kits [dating from the 1970s] produced by the former Geological Specimen Supplies company may also contain asbestos," the alert said.
The kits have been found to contain asbestos under a variety of names and schools are advised to "immediately withdraw the kits from use".
Schools should "not assume that kits are asbestos-free. Therefore, before purchasing kits or samples, schools should request certification confirming that the product has been tested and does not contain asbestos."
It is advised schools implement the following steps:
Immediately suspend use of all kits or samples that have not previously been confirmed as asbestos-free. Follow your school's safety management plan for notification and dealing with this situation
If you have the supplier details, contact them to confirm whether your kit/sample contains asbestos or mineral talc that may be contaminated with asbestos (for example, ask to see a testing certificate) and arrange for a return or replacement of the kit/sample if necessary
If the supplier is unknown and you are not sure about whether a kit contains asbestos, you have the following options: Have the sample tested for the presence of asbestos. If confirmed to be asbestos, dispose of the geological samples as asbestos waste; or, treat all samples as potentially containing asbestos and dispose of as asbestos waste
If not returned to the supplier, affected products should be taken to an asbestos disposal facility
The Shoal Bay Waste Management Facility, Katherine Waste Transfer Station and Alice Springs Town Council Landfill sites are listed as asbestos disposal facilities.
The Australian Government's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency states health risks associated with asbestos exposure relate to the inhalation (breathing in) of fibres.
"If asbestos material has not been disturbed it is unlikely to release asbestos fibres. Accordingly, any potential risk of exposure to asbestos is considered to be low."
In a statement, the NT Education Department said it had been notified about the kits last month and that 24 schools were identified as having them.
"The department notified all government and non-government schools across the Northern Territory to advise them of the alert and request that they check their mineral kits and take the action outlined in the NT Worksafe Safety Alert," the department said.