Children of Wittenoom the subject of a new study

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have just embarked on a new study investigating the current health of people who lived in Wittenoom as children.

For many years the Occupational Respiratory Epidemiology research group at the School of Population Health have been studying the health of former asbestos workers and residents from Wittenoom but this study specifically focuses on those individuals who lived there during their childhood. The aims of this study are to investigate both the physical and psychological health of ‘former Wittenoom children’.

According to project research director Dr Peter Franklin, there is currently little information about the long term health effects of childhood exposure to asbestos. ‘Early life exposure to environmental pollutants, such as asbestos, may lead to different health outcomes compared to exposure as an adult’ he said. ‘Although many people in the community have been exposed to asbestos during childhood there is very little data concerning the long-term health outcomes on these people.’

The researchers are also interested in the mental health of this group. The mental health of people who have been exposed to asbestos has not been particularly well investigated and may be a hidden legacy of asbestos exposure, according to Dr Franklin.

‘People exposed to asbestos in childhood are likely to be aware of the ongoing risk of developing serious disease even many years after exposure. They have also seen family members and friends develop asbestos-related disease. We do not know how that affects a person’s mental well being’ said Dr. Franklin. This study will help the researchers to examine whether awareness of past exposure and the fear of eventually developing an asbestos-related disease impact on quality of life or psychological health.

A survey was recently mailed to all people for whom the researchers have records of being in Wittenoom during their childhood. The survey asks about medical history, particularly in relation to respiratory, cardiovascular and auto-immune disease. There are also a series of questions relating to mental health.

It is important for the research for as many people as possible to respond to the survey. Also as the records are not complete the researchers may not have been able to contact all those people who lived in Wittenoom at some time during their childhood so the researchers would love to hear from anyone who was there but did not get a survey.

If you received the survey and want any information or if you didn’t receive the survey and want to participate, please contact Nola Olsen at