July 15, 2016 / 5:40 AM / 4 years ago

Australia's Lendlease probes asbestos in supplies from Chinese company

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian property group Lendlease said on Friday it was investigating the presence of asbestos in materials supplied by Hong Kong-listed Yuanda, raising concerns about the quality of imported building materials from China.

Construction workers lean on a fence adorned with a sign for the construction company Lendlease at a construction site in central Sydney, Australia, June 1, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray

Lend Lease’s review comes after Western Australia confirmed the presence of white asbestos in one of the 150 roof panels supplied by the Chinese construction company in the soon-to-be-opened A$1.2 billion ($913.80 million) Perth Children’s Hospital.

The confirmation by the Western Australian government has raised concerns about health risks for workers and the quality of building products from China.

The discovery of asbestos could have ramifications for other major government projects that source their products from China, including the Perth Stadium, local media reports said.

Asbestos has not been used in building materials in Australia since the 1980s but it was not until December 2003 that asbestos and all products containing asbestos were banned in the country. It is illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use these materials.

“We take these matters very seriously and will continue to make due enquiries,” a Lendlease spokeswoman said in an email. “Currently we are not aware of the product identified being used on any of our projects.”

Yuanda was not immediately available to comment at both its Australian and Chinese offices.

The presence of asbestos underscores the growing risk of importing building materials to inadvertently or deliberately lower costs, said Rob Whelan, CEO of Insurance Council of Australia.

“The increasing use of imported building materials, often ordered online from unfamiliar and untested suppliers and manufacturers, has increased the potential for non-conforming and counterfeit products to enter Australia,” Whelan added.

“Often the use of sub-standard building products only becomes apparent when something goes wrong, posing a risk to construction workers and the ultimate occupants of the building.”

Yuanda has supplied materials for a number of projects across Australia including Lendlease’s sprawling office tower development in Sydney.

Lendlease is developing the Barangaroo office tower in Sydney’s Darling Harbour where Crown Resorts has proposed to construct and operate the city’s first six-star luxury hotel resort with apartments and casinos.

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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