Adventure travel is all the rage, inviting thrill seekers to tempt fate in numerous ways, but risking mesothelioma seems to be taking it to an absurd extreme. That is exactly what is happening in a western Australia town that has been shut down over its asbestos contamination.
The town of Wittenoom was once the sign of an active asbestos mine, and is now considered a contaminated site where thousands of former residents have died of malignant mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. But the shutdown town, which is located 680 miles from Perth and which borders an area of gorges and waterfalls, has proven to have an inexplicable allure that has the curious risking their long-term health.
To protect people from themselves, the state government has issued warnings, calling the mesothelioma hotspot “the greatest occupational health and safety tragedy in Australia.” Press releases and road signs have compared what took place in the area to Bhopal and Chernobyl, but so far their efforts have failed, in part due to YouTube videos and blog posts that have featured tourists entering abandoned asbestos mines.
Though the uninformed have comforted themselves by saying that a short visit won’t hurt them, science says otherwise. Asbestos is a lightweight mineral that breaks down into easily inhaled fibers with needle-like ends. Once these particles become embedded in the cells of the lungs, they are nearly impossible to dislodge, and they quickly begin doing long-term damage. Though science is still not entirely sure about the mechanism by which mesothelioma forms, it is thoroughly understood that a day of touring now may come back to bring misery decades later.
It seems remarkable that people would risk the outcome that so many are suffering with today. If you or someone you love has been impacted by asbestos exposure in your past, we are here to help. Contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.
After the government shut down the mines in 1966, most residents relocated. Houses and buildings were demolished along the way.
In 2006, it lost its status as a town and was removed from official maps and road signs.
The government’s website on Wittenoom says exposure to asbestos can result in fatal diseases such as mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer which affects the thin membrane that lines the chest and abdomen, asbestosis and lung cancer.
Symptoms sometimes do not appear until decades after the initial exposure.
“STAY SAFE. DO NOT TRAVEL TO WITTENOOM,” is the government’s official advice.
Despite the many warnings, Mr White believes they will continue to be ignored by travellers like himself intent on seeing the town.
“There’s enough signs but I don’t think people are going to read them and not go in [as planned]. Like me, they probably already realise the dangers.”