Port Kembla Copper Stack demolition raises fears of mesothelioma

Date: Feb 25, 2014

The demolition of the iconic Port Kembla Copper Stack has made New South Wales residents feel not only nostalgic, but also concerned about developing asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma.

On Thursday (February 20), the Port Kembla Copper Stack – one of Australia's tallest chimneys – was demolished using a controlled explosion.

The chimney was built in 1965 and stood 198 metres high. This may be a couple of hundred metres shy of the world's tallest chimney, located at the GRES-2 Power Station in Kazakhstan, but the Port Kembla Copper Stack was still a recognisable feature of the New South Wales suburb's skyline.

According to news.com.au, the demolition was a "delicate operation", with the New South Wales Police and State Emergency Service volunteers on standby to make sure everything went smoothly.

However, the presence of such authorities was not enough to quash fears that asbestos fibres would be released when the Port Kembla Copper Stack came tumbling down.

Julie Renshaw, a "concerned resident" of the suburb, told news.com.au that Port Kembla Copper (PKC) is satisfied the chimney doesn't contain any asbestos.

But, she explained, levels 4 to 22 of the Stack are not accessible, which means they could be contaminated.

Ms Renshaw informed news.com.au that she was especially concerned about a pre-school that is located across from the demolition site. 

"Our concern is, worse case scenario, one of these children does develop a respiratory illness, [and] there is no support for them at all."

There are a number of illnesses that are commonly associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos. These include mesothelioma, as mentioned above – a type of cancer that effects the lining of the lungs – as well as asbestosis. This is a chronic lung disease that causes scarring on the lungs and long-term breathing complications. 

As of yet, no cure has been found to treat either condition.

Ian Wilson, general manager of PKC, assured ABC News on Thursday that "there is no part of the Stack which remains undisclosed, unexplored, uncharacterised'.

He said it was unfortunate the Port Kembla Copper Stack had to be demolished at all, and stated that his business had done everything it could "to demonstrate to everyone's satisfaction that the Stack does not contain any residual asbestos hazard".

As a precaution, states ABC News, Mr Wilson's team checked for asbestos before removing barriers around the demolition site and wet down all dust produced by the explosion.

If you think you're eligible to make an asbestos claim, get in touch with compensation lawyers in Sydney today.

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