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10 places ruined by man-made catastrophes

Jan. 23, 2012, 9:04 a.m.
asbestos warning sign

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Wittenoom, Australia

This town in Western Australia has the baleful reputation of being home to the greatest industrial disaster in Australian history. Wittenoom was the site of an asbestos mine, where thousands of workers and their families were exposed to lethal levels of blue asbestos 1,000 times higher than was legally regulated at the time. Though the town was shut down in 1966, today the air remains contaminated and toxic to breathe if stirred, and the state of Western Australia has the highest rate of malignant mesothelioma per capita of anywhere in the world.