Insulation imports worrying renovators
By Alex Brooks
Skyrocketing demand for the $1600 rebate to insulate homes has created a black market for potentially substandard insulation made in China which could create a health disaster.
Bradfords Insulation group marketing manager Ray Thompson says Australian factories are operating four shifts a day, seven days a week to supply the market but cannot keep up – there have even been reports of trucks carting insulation batts being hijacked.
“Smaller operators are importing insulation themselves from Malaysia and China to keep up with demand,” says EME Insulation founder Fred Ibrahim, who has 200 clients waiting for batts that meet Australian standards which his suppliers cannot give him.
“I’ve had 12 people cancel jobs this week because there are people doorknocking the suburbs who have batts in the back of their truck from who-knows-where and they do the job straight away.
The Department of Environment says 200, 675 insulation rebates have been paid across Australia since the rebate was introduced on February 3.
RMIT adjunct professor Alan Pears says Chinese-made insulation can be either very good or very bad, depending on how well manufacturing is supervised.
Chinese-manufactured gyprock used in American homes has caused a storm of health problems in the northern hemisphere, including noxious fumes and respiratory illnesses.
“We are very concerned about the quality of material coming in from China,” says Mr Thompson.
“Batts from Malaysia and America tend to be OK but when people start selling container-loads from China on eBay, it’s a worry.”
Archicentre NSW manager Angus Kell says the $1600 home insulation rebate has overstimulated demand to the point where Australian industry cannot cope.
“Demand is four or five times the capacity of the Australian industry so people are bringing the insulation in from overseas. Smaller operators are bringing it in by the container load from China,” he says.
Kell also has concerns about condensation problems arising from insulated homes with sarking in the roof, which leads to mould and moisture issues.
“We’ve seen one house with five kinds of toxic moulds growing, two of which have never been seen in Australia before,” he says.
The Federal Government says there is no evidence that substandard insulation has been installed in Australian homes, and they have compliance teams randomly checking new insulation installations to ensure all batts meet Australian standards.
“Any non-compliance with the program will be treated seriously and may result in make-good arrangements, recovery of money, installers being removed from the Installer Provider Register and prosecution if any law has been breached,” the statement to the Sun Herald said.
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