Reflections Through Reality: author and mesothelioma sufferer wants people to act on asbestos finds

Reflections Through Reality: author and mesothelioma sufferer wants people to act on asbestos finds
Reflections Through Reality: author and mesothelioma sufferer wants people to act on asbestos finds
Reflections Through Reality: author and mesothelioma sufferer wants people to act on asbestos finds

PEOPLE need to act over asbestos is the heartfelt plea from a retired builder battling a deadly disease caused by the banned material.

Barry Knowles contacted the Gazette to alert the public to an asbestos load found dumped last week in a reserve near Chidlow.

He said asbestos was widely used in buildings prior to 2003 and younger people, particularly home renovators, could be unaware of the health risks.

Cut, drilled, sanded or machined asbestos materials release asbestos fibres into the air and if inhaled can cause slow-developing deadly diseases.

A dog walker stumbled across the partially wrapped asbestos material in bushland where some pieces lay broken and scattered on the ground.

Mr Knowles (71), of Helena Valley, said the load looked as though it had been there for some time in an area often used by trail and quad bikers.

“I would say there was at least three tonnes (of asbestos material) dumped off the back of a tip truck,’ he said.

“Some of it was in bundles and sound, but there were smaller parts scattered around.”

After five years free of any symptoms of mesothelioma, the disease Mr Knowles has battled so bravely returned “in very vengeful way” about four weeks ago.

Diagnosed in February 2010 and given six to 12 months to live, he defied the odds to share his story publicly.

In his book Reflections through Reality, he writes about his illness and fight for compensation, with the proceeds supporting his foundation of the same name.

Driven by the need to help others and with the support of his family, he hopes the funds raised will help find a cure for mesothelioma.

He and his wife Renee also started a support network for people with the disease.

“Part of the whole problem we have in this country now is we’re not pushing people to get this asbestos out of harm’s way,” he said.

He urged the public to stay alert to the dangers of asbestos.

An investigation by the Shire of Mundaring found the asbestos dumped near Chidlow was on State Government land.

The Shire reported the dumping to the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW), which is the authority responsible for reserve management.

Chief executive Jonathan Throssell said an inspection by health officers determined the material was likely to have been at the site for some time.

“If people do not disturb asbestos, then it is unlikely to present with any discernible health hazard,” he said.

“Given the isolated location, there is no immediate public health concern; however DPaW will need to establish a removal program.

Under the Environmental Protection (Controlled Waste) Regulations 2004, dumping asbestos carries a penalty of $5000.

Mr Throssell said the Department of Environment Regulation would be responsible for further investigation of the incident.

“The Shire encourages residents to report litter offences to the appropriate land holder as soon as they are spotted to reduce potential hazards to the public.”

The Facts

WA houses built before mid-80s up to 1990 are likely to contain asbestos.

Import, manufacture and use of asbestos was banned in Australia, December 31, 2003.

Asbestos fragments found in roof panels at new Perth Children’s Hospital, July 2016.