• 13 JUL 07
    • 0

    #762: Another breast cancer case at Toowong re-ignites the controversy

    This morning on both Australian TV and radio it was reported that there are fresh calls to have equipment examined in ABC studios as a result of still another case of breast cancer in an employee who worked at the same news desk as many of the other women who previously found that they had the disease.

    Will we finally see an adequate investigation of the EMF emissions given off by the type of equipment used at the Toowong studios and still used in other studios as well? And what will be the acceptable “reference level” for any such investigation?
    Unfortunately an adequate investigation is unlikely according to the below article. In a stark example of corporate damage control MARK SCOTT ABC’s Managing Director is all to willing to revisit past mistakes by placing “our care in the hands the experts and the specialists on this. If they think that there is benefit in doing further testing on equipment at these new premises that we’ve moved to, then we will follow the expert’s advice.”

    Well, Mr Scott who are these experts? The same bunch who botched the job in the first place? Perhaps ABC management will decide to call in fresh “independent” experts to test other premises such as Power and Digital Instruments Pty Ltd.?

    “Acceptable Levels” in another case

    P&D Instruments, electronics and communications consulting engineers based at Roseville NSW, recently conducted ELF magnetic field testing at TYCO’s Dulmison Wyong and Berkeley Vale Premises in NSW. Going through their 28 May 2007 TYCO survey report it is seen that their safe level reference level is 1,000mG. To quote: “the measured maximum magnetic field strength levels are well within the basic restrictions (1,000mG) for 50Hz magnetic field exposures recommended in the NH&MRC Guidelines. They are thus not considered to represent a known health hazard.” 

    Nowhere in the P&D TYCO report is it mentioned the limitations of the NH&MRC (read ICNIRP) guidelines, such as “these guidelines are based on short-term, immediate health effects…” or that: “These limits represent plausible field values, below which immediate adverse health effects are unlikely” or “They are not intended to provide protection against possible cancer induction by continued exposure at the lower field levels implicated in the studies”¦”

    The P&D report is welcome news for Tyco management as it effectively provides protection for the corporation against litigation from a threatened worker’s compensation case. To put it bluntly, that is the real purpose of the guidelines and no doubt ABC management, and their hired experts, knows this all to well.
    It will be interesting to follow the continuing saga of scientific bumbling and intentional incompetence that has been the hallmark of the Toowong investigation to date.

    Don

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    Fifteenth ABC employee diagnosed with breast cancer

    http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2007/s1977342.htm
    PM – Thursday, 12 July , 2007 18:42:00
    Reporter: Kathryn Roberts
    MARK COLVIN: Another woman who worked at the ABC’s Brisbane studios has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

    It’s the 15th case of the disease since 1994 in women who’ve worked at the Toowong studios.

    Angela Eckersley worked at the same newsroom production desk as a significant number of the other women diagnosed with the disease.

    It’s the first new diagnosis since the Brisbane studios were evacuated just before Christmas.

    That happened after an expert panel found the risk of breast cancer for young women at the ABC was twenty times higher than for the general population.

    From Brisbane, Kathryn Roberts reports.

    KATHRYN ROBERTS: The mood in the ABC’s Brisbane newsroom was gloomy today after staff were told that another former colleague had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

    Angela Eckersley is the 15th woman to be diagnosed with the disease since 1995.

    The mother of four left the ABC two years ago after working as a part-time news assistant for seven years.

    She sat at the same newsroom desk as several other women who’ve had breast cancer.

    Angela Eckersley’s husband Ian is a former ABC television presenter who played a prominent role in lobbying for management to investigate the cancer cluster.

    Former ABC journalist Nadia Farha was diagnosed with the disease five years ago and now works with Ian Eckersley.

    NADIA FARHA: It’s always a tragic situation but I think in this situation it’s even more tragic, seeing it’s the Ekersley family and Ian was at the forefront of the battle with the ABC to get something done.

    KATHRYN ROBERTS: Do you feel that the ABC had it acted sooner could have prevented some of these cases?

    NADIA FARHA: I think that’s a hard thing to say and I don’t think anyone can make a conclusive comment about that. I mean I think if they had have done something about it earlier and done it properly earlier, I still think you would have had the number of cases but it may have lessoned the chances for some people.

    KATHRYN ROBERTS: A report by an expert panel last year found that the risk to female staff at the ABC’s Toowong site was up to 11 times higher than in the general population. For young women the risk was 20 times higher.

    Although the panel couldn’t identify a reason for the cancer cluster, ABC management was forced to act and the site was immediately evacuated just days before Christmas.

    Queensland News Editor Bernard Bowen.

    BERNARD BOWEN: Obviously the ABC News department is devastated by this. Our thoughts are with the Eckersleys through this difficult time. We have just moved into a new newsroom and we were progressing with life after the breast cancer episode and this is just another reminder that it’s still with us.

    KATHRYN ROBERTS: The union is calling for all the new Brisbane sites to be tested.

    Professor Bruce Armstrong from the Sydney Cancer Centre chaired the expert panel.

    He’s not surprised to hear of another case. He says although staff have now moved off the site, the risk won’t cease immediately and female staff should continue to be screened.

    BRUCE ARMSTRONG: I couldn’t say they should stop after five years or ten years or go back to standard breast screening after five or ten years. We don’t know that that’s the case, time only will tell.

    KATHRYN ROBERTS: When the Toowong site was abandoned it was evacuated rather abruptly and there has been some criticism that there wasn’t sufficient testing done with the site left in place, so to speak, before everything was moved out of it. Was that an error?

    BRUCE ARMSTRONG: No I don’t think that the decision not to do any further testing was an error. It was certainly a question that was put to us and we said that we did not think that there was any basis on which further testing would be more informative.

    KATHRYN ROBERTS: Speaking from overseas, the ABC’s Managing Director Mark Scott said the latest case was confirmation of the cluster identified last year.

    MARK SCOTT: I’ll put our care in the hands the experts and the specialists on this. If they think that there is benefit in doing further testing on equipment at these new premises that we’ve moved to, then we will follow the expert’s advice.

    KATHRYN ROBERTS: While he says there’s nothing to indicate atypical instances of breast cancer at other ABC sites around the country, a national investigation into the incidence of breast cancer in ABC staff is due to start soon.

    But there remains an extremely high level of anxiety amongst staff in Brisbane.

    Several victims have also launched a class action. The ABC’s workplace compensation scheme Comcare is yet to accept liability.

    MARK COLVIN: Kathryn Roberts.

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