Suburban toxicity: A political ecology of asbestos in Australian cities

Donna Houston*, Kristian Ruming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the toxic legacy of asbestos in Australian suburbs and cities. During the post-war period, Australia had one of the highest per capita rates of asbestos use in the developed world. As a consequence of this indiscriminate use, Australia also has one of the highest rates of asbestos dust disease in the world. Drawing on feminist approaches to urban political ecology (UPE) and the materialities of waste, we trace the entanglement of asbestos within the everyday spaces of homes and suburbs and through urban governance structures and processes of urban regeneration. We argue that UPE provides an important framework for putting asbestos stories and practices in the city together. UPE highlights the relational entanglements and injustices of asbestos, which render it as matter that circulates through bodies, homes, infrastructures, working-class histories and suburban imaginaries. This approach challenges the construction of asbestos in terms of its hazardous obsolescence and resituates it as complex matter that continues to be lived with and practiced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-410
Number of pages11
JournalGeographical Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


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