Health experts are baffled after social media influencers revealed they are continuing to visit the asbestos-contaminated town of Wittenoom despite clearly signed areas that outline the risks of entering.
Some visitors have even taken their children along to the town, which is so badly contaminated by asbestos that it was degazetted in 2007, meaning it is no longer considered a town. The local government is planning to finalise the removal of the town by demolishing the remaining structures, while essential services such as power and water are no longer supplied.
Advisory chair for the National Centre of Asbestos-Related Diseases, Melita Markey, has slammed the social media users who have continued to defy the warnings.
“You’re playing Russian roulette with your life and your children’s lives,” she said.
One Instagram user explained that they visited for a holiday, writing that they “stayed in a house of one of the three remaining residents of this town.”
“The area is safe now, but the fear of the asbestos mine looms over this area and the Australian government is persistent in wishing to delete the existence of this town.”
Health experts are increasingly concerned over the content, particularly with other social media users supporting the content, and expressing their own desire to visit the town.
“It’s a level of determination, isn’t it? To take the risk, or to believe that they’re invincible — and sadly, we know that’s not the case,” Mrs Markey said.
“There’s a lot of asbestos in Wittenoom and it has very strong winds blowing around you.
“Also, it’s blue asbestos, and the research shows us that’s the most deadly and most carcinogenic.”
Wittenoom Gorge is the home of the asbestos mine that supported the town from the 1940s. It is estimated that more than 2,000 of the 13,000 workers who were employed at the mine site have died from asbestos-related diseases.
Mrs Markey also explained that the risk isn’t necessarily dependent on long-term exposure, and has warned of the dangers of visiting the site. “The consequences aren’t worth it… we don’t have the investment in medical research to even offer you any hope,” she said.