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Chinese Geely MK recalled over asbestos

Gasket case: The Geely MK is the sixth Chinese-built vehicle sold in Australia to be shipped with asbestos-containing gaskets.

Geely the third Chinese brand found to be exporting cars containing asbestos to Oz

Geely logo3 Dec 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

UPDATEDTHE Chinese-built Geely MK light car has been recalled in Western Australia – the only state in which it is sold – over the presence of the banned substance asbestos in two engine gaskets.

It is the third discovery of asbestos in cars imported from China this year.

In August, 21,500 Great Wall utes and SUVs plus 1700 Chery J11 compact SUVs and 550 Chery J3 light cars sold here were found to contain the potentially deadly substance.

Rod Gailey, director of Australian Geely importer Chinese Automotive Distributors (CAD), told GoAuto that Geely voluntarily responded to the discovery of asbestos in other Chinese cars by conducting more than 100 laboratory tests in China.

“They isolated the only two components that may or may not have asbestos – in some vehicles it has a steel gasket,” he said.

The owners of about 300 affected MKs are being contacted and invited to have the water inlet pipe and throttle body gaskets replaced, and mechanics have been advised to follow asbestos handling procedures when working on the car.

A further 115 cars held in stock by CAD have been withdrawn from sale until remedial work has been done and affected spare parts have been removed from shelves.

203 center imageFrom top: Great Wall SA and X200 Chery J3 and J11.Mr Gailey said a shipment of another 200 MKs was due to arrive in January, but these cars will not require the recall work before they go on sale.

In a letter sent to customers, CAD said the gaskets will be replaced under “a voluntary recall campaign by Geely International Corporation” and that the process takes around 90 minutes.

It warns business owners that using vehicles containing asbestos for work purposes in WA would put them in breach of work safety regulations.

Attached to the letter is a risk assessment report by GCG Health Safety & Hygiene, which says the small quantity of bonded white asbestos in the gaskets is “firmly bound within the matrix of the material” and “held under compression by the flanges of the joint”.

“During normal operation of these vehicles, the gaskets will not release measurable quantities of respirable asbestos fibre. Gaskets identified as containing asbestos are separate from cabin ventilation systems.

“It is the professional opinion of GCG Health Safety & Hygiene that the identified gaskets present a negligible asbestos exposure risk to the driver and passengers of vehicles containing these gaskets.”

As with Great Wall and Chery vehicles, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recommended that the procedures for the maintenance of vehicles containing asbestos – which already exist for working on cars built before the substance was banned at the end of 2003 – are applied to the Geely MK.

The ACCC ruled that the engine and exhaust gaskets in Great Wall and Chery vehicles could remain in situ as they were deemed as posing a negligible risk to health unless the gaskets are disturbed during vehicle maintenance.

Instead, a recall campaign was initiated to apply warning labels to affected vehicles and components, and affected spare parts were withdrawn from sale.

GCG Health Safety & Hygiene’s report says there is the potential “for release of measurable quantities of respirable asbestos fibre if gaskets are subjected to severe mechanical abrasion”.

“It is the professional opinion of GCG Health Safety & Hygiene that the identified gaskets present a negligible asbestos exposure risk during replacement and handling, provided appropriate procedures are followed,” says the report.

The ACCC recommends any work involving the gaskets be carried out by a licensed motor mechanic who has been made aware of correct asbestos handling procedures.

When asbestos was found in Great Wall and Chery vehicles in Australia, it had worldwide ramifications for the companies as they export cars to other markets where the substance is banned, including South Africa.

Chery attributed the existence of asbestos in its Australia-bound vehicles to “mislabelling parts in China, which led to mix-ups in logistics”, while Great Wall pledged to stop using asbestos-containing gaskets for both domestic and export markets.

Asbestos is banned in many countries because it can cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory illnesses if fibres are inhaled.

Chinese Automotive Distributors says all friction components, such as brake pads and clutch plates, have been tested and confirmed free of asbestos and components containing asbestos are not exposed or located near the car’s ventilation system.

In July, Geely recalled all 421 MK sedans and hatches imported to Australia over a potentially faulty seat slide mechanism, which could allow the seat to slide forward in an accident, and rear door locks that may not function correctly during a side impact.

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