Learning about manmade and natural disasters can give perspective on environmental concerns and historical facts. Uncovering past experiences about places can be interesting, but even more intriguing is digging up information about entire populations and towns that have been affected by unforeseen circumstances.
“Visiting Wittenoom is not worth risking your life.”
More than scary signage, it actually serves as an ominous warning.
The town was built up as a productive mining community. However, it was not until after the mine workers and their families had been exposed to the deadly cancer causing blue asbestos that the area was discovered to be completely devastating to the health and lung function of its occupants.
In the 1960’s it became increasingly clear that asbestos was a major health threat to laborers and those who are exposed to it, including children.
Reportedly, company officials decided to close the mine due to lack of profit in 1966.
The harmful effects of the deadly asbestos exposure continues to affect the families today, as mesothelioma characteristically does not produce signs in the body until some time after being obtained.
In efforts to close the town, it was confirmed by the government as a contamination zone. Most residents relocated and power was shut off to the area. It was also closed to traffic and travel access, and the town’s name was literally taken off of road signs and maps.
Since the first reported case in the early 1960’s, Western Australia has seen at least 1,500 individuals diagnosed with the disease. Approximately 300 of these cases are reported as former Wittenoom inhabitants.
Leadville is another nearly abandoned mine town located in Colorado.
Founded in 1877, the town was situated near many other rich mining systems. Soon after its beginning it was found to be a bountiful silver mine and remained a leading producer in the U.S. for over 100 years.
The town offered so much work that many have stated that it grew into an overpopulated mining community with no direct access to fresh foods and overcharged prices for amenities.
In addition to the increased amount of residents, alarmingly high lead levels and toxic materials like arsenic were found contaminating the soil and seeping into the groundwater and the Arkansas River.
In 1983 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared that the site was a direct ecological and communal health threat.
Though both of these mining towns were once decidedly closed due to toxicity concerns, they both surprisingly have residents that still remain.
Miners who are put in dangerous positions at work in order to provide for their families have to fear the future for possible health consequences, and live with ever present concerns. The fact that profit can be placed before safety is an alarming societal concern.
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