Health risks associated with visiting Wittenoom
Jul 11 2018
The Shire has become aware that some tour companies, along with individuals and families have recently been visiting Wittenoom as part of their expeditions to the Pilbara.
It is possible that people may be unaware of Wittenoom’s history, however aspects of it are such that the history of Wittenoom raises serious questions as to safety of visiting the town and its surrounds, even today.
The town of Wittenoom was constructed specifically to house the workers at the nearby asbestos mine and mill, as well as their families. The mine operated between the late 1940s and 1966. One outcome of these mining operations was the spread of asbestos tailings including a significant amount of asbestos dust around the mine, the town and the surrounding area, including the nearby gorges.
Asbestos is an extremely toxic substance, particularly blue asbestos, which is the type of asbestos found at Wittenoom. A frequent outcome resulting from exposure to asbestos of any type is mesothelioma, a disease which causes sufferers great pain and is always fatal. Even exposure to very small dosages of blue asbestos over a short period can cause this extremely unpleasant disease, which may not show up for 40 or 50 years.
The spread of the asbestos tailings, combined with fact that this material does not decompose, means that a deadly risk remains over the town and the surrounding area. This has resulted in the State Government declaring the entire townsite and much of the surrounding land a contaminated site under the Contaminated Site Act 2003.
Over the years many people, who have contracted mesothelioma, have taken legal action against those parties whom they have thought were the cause of their dire predicament. Settlement of these claims has required the payment of significant settlement payments. As you would expect, many of these claims have been made by long-term residents and miners, who lived and worked in the town.
However numerous short-term visitors and tourists, who only visited the area briefly, have contracted and died from asbestos related illnesses and have also made legal claims. These legal proceedings have included claims against commercial businesses who have been involved in the process, which has led to the person being exposed to asbestos in and around Wittenoom.
One practical result of this contamination is that the State Government and the Shire strongly recommend members of the public not enter the area. Furthermore, neither the State nor the Shire will permit their staff to enter or provide emergency services within the contaminated area, except in very specific and controlled circumstances.
The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage website should be viewed for more detailed information and dangers associated with Wittenoom:
For all the above reasons it is strongly recommended that people do not visit Wittenoom and its surrounds as a part of any independent or organised tour itinerary.