The area was issued a stop-work yesterday to allow authorities to inspect the site.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland said that no work will commence in the area until a safe system of work can be implemented.
The Cairns Post reports that experienced builders who have checked the site said they have no doubt there is asbestos contamination and are worried for the health of 15 trainees working on the site as well as the general public.
The building, located at the corner of Barang and Thongon streets, is owned by the Ngoonbi Co-operative Society. Jobfind Centres Australia was contracted to do the renovations.
Warren Entsch, federal member for Leichhardt, was outraged that trainee construction workers were unaware they were working at a site suspected to be contaminated with asbestos.
“It’s just unbelievable that they could be exposed to this,” said Mr Entsch.
He also questioned why JobFind was granted the role of conducting the renovations.
“It just doesn’t make sense that government agencies can let tenders go to job training organisations that have neither the qualifications or the licences to carry out the work,” he said.
An independent National Association of Testing Authorities laboratory is examining samples obtained from the site.
Ngoonbi Co-operative Society’s executive officer Lionel Quartermain said a qualified builder who had been working with the trainees at the site did not know of the potential asbestos threat in the house.
“There was no indication at all that there (could be asbestos),” said Mr Quartermain.
He also said that he was waiting for instructions from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on how to clean up the suspected asbestos in the area.