The invisible perils of a town ravaged by asbestos

Before the trip, an expert mentioned that we should not step on dust, because that dust can be impregnated with asbestos fibers. Easy enough, I think. Obviously, we didn’t take the dog into account.

As much as we tried to be cautious, it couldn’t be absolutely safe – that’s part of the horror of Wittenoom. The longer a resident or visitor stays, the greater the risk they face: The asbestos fibers are microscopic in size and invisible to the naked eye, and the cancers they cause can disappear. decades to metastasize.

Unlike a war zone, where you’re dealing with real-time physical hazards that stop when you leave the location, the danger of Wittenoom is largely invisible, uncertain, and a threat. stay with you, Mr. Abbott said.

Due to its invisible, psychological nature, people can have very different understandings of the level of risk they are facing, as evidenced by the travelers we spoke to.

Mr. Abbott is particularly worried about young thrill-seekers who might continue to visit the town. “You think you’re invincible and at that age it’s hard to imagine a speck of dust could kill you,” he said. “How do you understand that? That, for me, is a problem because people will continue to visit that place and take those risks without fully understanding it.”

This is part of the reason why the Banjima people, whose homeland includes Wittenoom, are campaigning to clean up the pollution. They say it not only protects those who continue to visit the area as part of their cultural obligations, it is the only way to protect the health of future visitors.

Now that the last residents have been evicted from their homes, the question of what will happen to the contaminated site remains.

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