• 09 DEC 06
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    #605: ABC Toowong studios to close after breast cancer cluster found

    ABC Online

    The World Today – ABC Toowong to close after cancer scare

    [This is the print version of story http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2006/s1816593.htm]

    The World Today – Thursday, 21 December , 2006 12:22:00

    Reporter: Brigid Glanville
    ELEANOR HALL: The ABC will abandon one of its capital city headquarters within a matter of weeks because of a health investigation, which has revealed an unacceptably high incidence of breast cancer at the broadcaster”s Brisbane base.The report showed women who work there have reported breast cancer at a rate 11 times higher than the general working community. The report examined the cases of 10 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer while working at the Toowong site. Most of them worked in the newsroom, and had been there for more than 5 years.

    The ABC”s Managing Director has also revealed there will now be similar health studies at ABC sites around Australia.

    Brigid Glanville was at the staff meeting in Brisbane, and she joins us now.

    So Brigid, this is clearly a very significant report. Who conducted it and what are the key findings?

    BRIGID GLANVILLE: It was conducted by a panel, and the Chair of the panel, Eleanor, was Dr Bruce Armstrong from the University of Sydney, and also from the Sydney Cancer Clinic.

    Within the report, they interviewed the ten women who have had invasive breast cancer at the ABC studios here. Eight of them have been from the newsroom.

    And from the study it found that with those statistics, it would be reasonable for 1.6 women to have breast cancer, who work at the ABC here in Toowong, in Brisbane, but actually because ten of them have breast cancer, it means that women who work here are up to between three” and up to 11 times more like to get breast cancer. They think it”s probably around 6.25, will be the figure.

    So, they”ve ruled out a number of factors of the cause, unfortunately they say they can”t actually pinpoint what the cause is, they”ve ruled out things in the study, say, lifestyle.

    All the women they interviewed that have had breast cancer, they had a significant amount of exercise, no one in their family had had breast cancer, that”s a major risk for women, also they didn”t smoke, all those things that could contribute. So, they rules that out, they ruled out other risk factors, they ruled out error in the study, so they”ve come to the conclusion that it has something to do with the workplace.

    ELEANOR HALL: So, they can”t pinpoint the cause, but they are concerned enough to ask that everyone be removed from the site?

    BRIGID GLANVILLE: Absolutely. They”ve tested radiation levels, all those kind of things, and they said it”s not that, so they can”t actually find anything. So now, within a matter of days, the people that work here, I think there”s around 250 people that work here, will be moved from the site.

    The first emphasis is on the newsroom, because the women, Eleanor, that had it, the eight of them, worked in a cluster area, mainly around the TV news desk, and in the studio. So, the newsroom will be moved first, it”s likely that will probably to Channel Seven, and Channel Ten, and work from their newsrooms.

    The rest of the ABC sites, all the local radio programs, Australian story, Landline, all the other programs that come out of the ABC, will be moved within days to a temporary location, and then in January they”ll try an look for a permanent home.

    And actually, Eleanor, I”ve just had some news come in, that actually the newsroom staff will leave the site today.

    ELEANOR HALL: So, what has been the reaction of people there?

    BRIGID GLANVILLE: Well, when Mark Scott, the Managing Director, handed down the report, there were a number of women who were crying – young women, who have worked here for years.

    A combination of, I think, emotion for the people they know, the women who have had breast cancer, and of course for these young girls, in their early thirties, who are now concerned that they might have a chance of contracting breast cancer because they”ve worked here.

    ELEANOR HALL: Now, Mark Scott delivered the results of this report. At the time he also said there would be similar health studies conducted at sites around Australia. What did he say about that?

    BRIGID GLANVILLE: He said that they”re going to do a study, an epidemiological study of women who have had breast cancer at all the other ABC sites, so, Sydney, Melbourne, right around the country.

    And obviously when those results come down, just to see if it is obviously in every ABC workplace. But at the moment, obviously the focus is here on Brisbane, and a lot of management are up here today, and they”re obviously saying that the importance is on health and safety.

    They are urging a lot of staff, possibly over the Christmas period, to take longer leave, so they”re not back until, sort of, mid-January. They are also talking about now, setting up like a convention type” going to a convention centre, and setting up makeshifts sort of studios, and that kind of thing.

    ELEANOR HALL: Brigid Glanville at the ABC newsroom in Brisbane, thank you.

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