Many folks in WA are aware of the (former) mining town of Wittenoom, at one time Australia’s only supplier of blue asbestos and, as of 2007, a contaminated site that has been wiped off the map, cut off from government services and has, at last count, only three remaining residents. Mining for blue asbestos began in the area in the 1940s, and by the 1950s, it was Australia’s major supplier of what we know today to be an extremely hazardous material.
Blue asbestos dust in Western Australia
The mine was shut down in 1966, although it’s status as a town was only officially abolished in 2007. Access to the area has been limited since 2013.
Blue asbestos is particularly dangerous, being even more hazardous than white asbestos as the fibres are much smaller and easier to inhale, causing mesothelioma (lung cancer) and other lung diseases.
As early as the 1940s, the link between asbestos and cancer was confirmed and Western Australian State Mining Engineers reported on the danger of dust being generated in the area, primarily affecting miners and nearby residents.
In the 1970s, the dangers of blue asbestos in the home in the form of building materials were first reported to the general public. Asbestos was widely used in building materials, particularly in the post war boom.
Brown and white asbestos use continued… Although the mining of blue asbestos was banned in 1967, it remained in many building structures and the mining of brown asbestos continued until the mid 1980s. Even then, the use of white asbestos continued and was only fully banned in 2003.
Despite these bans, the legacy of asbestos use in Western Australia continues to take its toll, with the incidence of related disease peaking now and possibly rising through to 2021, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Older homes and commercial buildings often contain asbestos material and renovation projects place individuals at high risk.
Asbestos Removal and Safety
Clearly, there are still exposure threats and there is a code of practice on the safe removal of asbestos. Professionals are able to identify the material, the potential risks and remove it safely.
Perth Asbestos Services can inspect any suspect material, remove and dispose of it safely and then replace it with safer alternatives. If you’re not sure if you have asbestos in your home or buildings, call us on 1300 968 935 to speak to an expert before you go ahead with any renovation plans.