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PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:51 am 
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Brain tumour cases to be investigated a day after publicity
http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/brain-tumour-cases-to-be-investigated-a-day-after-publicity-20100412-s43x.html
April 13, 2010

KRISTINA KENEALLY has ordered an investigation into the apparent cancer cluster in Singleton Heights, revealed by the Herald yesterday.

Five neighbours near the junction of two suburban streets have been struck with brain tumours, with some fearing pollution from the nearby coalmines and power stations many have contributed to their conditions.

''We will be going in to investigate these five individuals … looking at their details, the type of cancer … and their risk factors to determine what is - if anything - happening in that particular location,'' the NSW Premier said.

Ms Keneally's commitment falls far short of the comprehensive health study that various community groups in the Hunter Valley have been demanding for years, although she has not ruled out such a study. The region is home to two power stations, with a third on the way, and about 30 coalmines.

By yesterday afternoon a doctor from the Hunter New England Area Health Service had already been in touch with the McMahon family, asking for permission to access Peter McMahon's medical records.

Mr McMahon has already had three operations for his recurring brain tumour, as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He recently began a new course of drugs in the hope it will improve and prolong his life.

''At least this is something,'' said his wife, Narelle, of the investigation yesterday. ''It would be good to know what is coming out of the power stations and what that does to people.''

Bruce Armstrong, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney who investigated the cluster scare at the ABC's Brisbane studios in 2007, said most suspected cancer clusters were statistical anomalies, but given the rarity of brain tumours, this case might warrant further investigation.

A local doctor, Tuan Au, has recently begun his own survey of schoolchildren in the area. His early results suggest it is far more common for children of the upper Hunter Valley to have limited lung capacity than is usual.

As far back as 1985 three doctors wrote a statement for local activists saying in their view the incidence of asthma and recurring bronchitis in the area was double the national average. Nick Higginbotham, an associate professor at the University of Newcastle's centre for clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, lead a team that studied available evidence for ill-health in the region, finding ''upper Hunter residents face serious obstacles in their quest for rigorous air monitoring and a health study''.

''These include the interdependence of state government and corporations in reaping the economic benefits of coal production and export, lack of political will and regulatory inertia.''

Dr Higginbotham's study shows that in 2008 about 38,160 tonnes of larger dust particles, known as PM10, were emitted in the Singleton shire, compared with just 920 tonnes over Newcastle and 260 tonnes over Maitland, where there are no power plants and less open-cut mining.

A further 1500 tonnes of the finer and more dangerous PM2.5 and smaller particles were emitted, a third of the emissions for the entire state.

The World Health Organisation says there is no safe level of PM2.5. There are no Australian standards on these particles.

The Singleton Shire Healthy Environment Group has rejected the government's proposed monitoring system, saying it will not be independent of the mines and will only monitor dust, rather than other associated toxins.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 1:40 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 12:43 pm
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Location: Sydney, Australia
How interesting, I grew up near a coal mine (my school was right near the coal loader), and I spent my teenage years exploring coal shafts, and searching through old dumps (there was a different idea about parenting in the 1970s). A friend of mine (who I went to school with from K to 12) developed a benign brain tumor about four years ago. I know this means nothing statistically, but still...


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