Asbestos fears follow in the wake of cyclone Christine
By Leanne Nicholson, http://www.watoday.com.au
The cyclonic winds and pelting rain may have passed by Western Australia’s Pilbara and Kimberley regions, however, ex-tropical cyclone Christine has exposed a fresh yet familiar danger for residents to contend with.
Asbestos in buildings, fencing and other building products dislodged or damaged during the wild weather now pose an additional health risk to Pilbara residents if they are exposed to the cancer-causing material.
Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyer Laine McDonald issued the warning to residents of the risks of asbestos exposure during the cleaning up of properties, homes and businesses battered by Christine.
“Once asbestos is disturbed, it can pose a real danger to health,” Ms McDonald said.
“Residents who are returning to their homes and businesses could be at risk of exposure, especially if they start cleaning up without the right protection.
“While it’s difficult to tell if a structure contains asbestos, if it was built in the mid-1980s – the time when this common building product was phased out – you assume there’s a risk.”
It’s believe about 600 Australian are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
Asbestos was commonly used as a construction material throughout the Pilbara.
It was mined in Wittenoom, 1100 kilometres north-east of Perth in the Pilbara, before the town was evacuated and essentially wiped off the map by authorities.
“Asbestos products damaged by severe storms like cyclone Christine can release a very dangerous dust which, once breathed in, can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other serious illnesses,” Ms McDonald said.
“Each year around 250 Western Australians die from asbestos-related diseases, with a lag of about 30-40 years between exposure and diagnosis of an illness.
“Asbestos products are still in our homes, businesses and communities more than 40 years after the Wittenoom mine closed, so it’s a hazard that continues to confront us all.”
Despite the category three cyclone coming within about 100 kilometres of the Town of Port Hedland, mayor Kelly Howlett said the district had escaped with minor damage, mostly to the area’s natural landscape.
“We’ve got a lot of cleaning up to do but we were very fortunate,” Cr Howlett said.
“We’ve not seen any bad structural damage, just a few trees down, a lot of sand swept up from the beach and a bit of flooding.”
Cr Howlett said new and updated property development in the region had reduced the number of buildings containing asbestos. Read More