Wittenoom is arguably Australia’s worst industrial disaster.
Blue asbestos was mined at Wittenoom in the Pilbara, Western Australia from 1943 to 1966. The mine, which was owned by CSR Limited and its subsidiary Australian Blue Asbestos Pty Limited, sought to produce crocidolite asbestos (blue asbestos) for domestic use in fencing, roofing, wall sheeting as well as in insulation material used on boilers and steam ships.
The mine ultimately operated at a loss and closed in 1966. Despite the mine closing 53 years ago it continues to impact every day Western Australians.
Exposure to crocidolite can cause mesothelioma, a terminal asbestos cancer. In fact crocidolite is considered the worst asbestos fiber as it is more highly associated with incidences of mesothelioma than other types of asbestos fiber due to its needle like shape and small diameter which makes it easier for it to penetrate the lung.
To date it is estimated 2,000 people have died from asbestos disease related deaths directly attributed to exposure to asbestos at Wittenoom. Among these people are miners who worked in the mine but also people who have lived and visited the township.
Last week WA Treasurer and Lands Minister Ben Wyatt introduced legislation to Parliament seeking to compulsorily acquire the homes of those who continue to reside in Wittenoom in an attempt to discourage tourists from visiting the town. We are shocked to hear that Wittenoom is becoming a tourist destination with people stopping at the town to explore, take photos and upload them to social media with taglines such as #cancercounty #asbestos #mesothelioma.
No safe level of expose to asbestos
As lawyers who represent sufferers of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases such as asbestosis, pleural thickening, diffuse pleural fibrosis and lung cancer we find it hard to believe people now consider Wittenoom a tourist destination. We have watched as dozens of our clients have developed and died horrific deaths from mesothelioma. With more and more people visiting Wittenoom we would like to take this opportunity to urge people to avoid visiting Wittenoom at all costs as there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.