Asbestos Contamination Multiplies at Public Sites in Sydney

Officials in Sydney, Australia, said on Sunday that they had found traces of asbestos at 34 public sites across the city in recent weeks, and that a venue for an upcoming Taylor Swift concert was declared free of the toxic mineral.

The hunt for asbestos in recycled mulch in the city began last month, and sites that have tested positive include parks and the grounds of hospitals, train stations, supermarkets and four schools, two of which have temporarily closed. The figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency of New South Wales on Sunday included two new sites, both schools.

The scandal has received international attention in part because the authorities have been testing mulch on the grounds of Sydney Olympic Park, where Ms. Swift is scheduled to perform four shows starting on Friday. But the agency said on Sunday that those tests were negative.

“I can say with certainty that the Harbor City is ready to welcome Taylor Swift with open arms,” Tony Chappel, the agency’s chief executive, told reporters on Sunday.

If inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause lung diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Laws about it vary by country: Asbestos is not banned in the United States, while the European Union banned white asbestos, the most common form, in 2005.

Australia began to phase out asbestos in the 1980s and banned it completely in 2003. But the substance had already been used for construction, automotive manufacturing and other uses for decades. Many homes that were built there before the 1990s still contain asbestos.

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