• 08 DEC 05
    • 0

    Second opinion on gallery cancer link

    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Second opinion on gallery cancer link

    By Joyce Morgan Arts Editor
    December 5, 2005

    AN environmental health expert will visit the National Gallery of Australia this week to look at whether there is any connection between cancer cases among security staff and the workplace.

    Associate Professor Malcolm Sim, the head of the Occupational and Environmental Health Unit at Monash University, has been appointed to give a second opinion following an assessment by Health Services Australia in 2002, which discounted any connection.

    That assessment was strongly criticised in a health and safety report by an independent investigator in September, which recommended that a second opinion be obtained.

    Sim’s appointment is the latest move by the gallery to clear the air over long-running questions about the health and safety of the Canberra building.

    And it comes nearly a year after the Herald first reported that the gallery knew in 2001 that at least 14 security guards had developed cancer, but it had not told an investigator looking into health concerns at the time. No timetable would be imposed on Sim, who was appointed in mid-November, gallery spokesman Ken Begg said.

    “The timing of his report will be his decision,” he said.

    Sim’s appointment comes in the wake of the report by an independent investigator, Robert Wray, who found that the gallery was highly likely to have been a “sick building” in the mid-1990s.

    Wray criticised as a “paper and literature investigation” the cancer assessment prepared by Health Services Australia.

    Management and workers had not been consulted, nor had there been an assessment of the working conditions or allegations of contaminated air-conditioning systems, Wray said.

    Sim heads a team of about 15 research staff at Monash, where his unit’s research interests include the human health effects of occupational and environmental chemical exposure.

    He will conduct his first visit on Wednesday to familiarise himself with the gallery, learn of staff concerns and to determine the direction his investigation will take.

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