March 15, 2022
Beekeepers and importers of beekeeping equipment have been been warned about the presence of dangerous asbestos fibres in many imported bee smokers.
An Australian Border Force spokesperson said asbestos was a Tier 1 prohibited import under the Customs Regulation 2015.
“Breathing in asbestos fibres can have devastating health effects and is known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma,” the spokesperson said.
“Unlawfully importing products with asbestos can carry significant penalties such as fines of up to $222,000 or three times the value of the goods – whichever is greater – and/or imprisonment for up to five years.”
Battery-powered electric and manual smokers are commonly advertised on online shopping websites by international sellers.
“The manual model requires manual force by squeezing a bellows constructed with woven cloth-like material that often includes a high concentration of asbestos,” the spokesperson said.
“While the electric model has a small motor and fan contained within an attached handle, an insulation board situated between the handle and the canister is often made with bonded asbestos.
“Professional and amateur apiarists should be wary when purchasing bee smokers from suppliers outside Australia.
“Whether purchasing for their own use or intending to sell in Australia, importers should exercise caution and check with the supplier as to exactly what the material is, as some parts used to construct the smokers are being exported from countries with no asbestos bans in place.”
Between September 2021 and January 31 thus year, Australian Border Force detected 39 imports of bee smokers at the border which were at risk of potentially containing asbestos. Thirteen were identified for business entities while the remaining 26 were in individuals’ names.
“Importers should seek accredited assurances from suppliers before importing these products into Australia. Further information regarding this can be located at the ABF asbestos information page,” the spokesperson said.
“A declaration of no asbestos from the overseas supplier, on its own, is not evidence. If adequate assurance is not provided, importers will face delays and may be responsible for costs incurred when the goods are held at the border for the purposes of sampling and testing by qualified professionals.
“For non-commercial importers, these costs will likely far outweigh the actual cost paid for the bee smoker. If the bee smokers are found to contain any level of asbestos they will be seized for disposal.”