• 18 JUL 07
    • 0

    #768:”Freaky” cancer cluster suspected at Sydney hospital

    Coming hot on the heels of the ABC Toowong breast cancer cluster – and possibly as a result of heightened awareness because of the ABC case, now there may be another cluster, this time at a Sydney Hospital amongst staff who worked in a “limited work area”. (Two articles below) Because Professor Bruce Armstrong is also on the hospital expert committee investigating this case hopefully he has learned from his past mistakes to now properly investigate ELF magnetic fields. After all he has stated that a full environmental assessment of the entire hospital is being carried out. For the sake of hospital staff the following past Toowong mistakes should not be repeated:
    1) Commission EMC Technologies to survey the radiofrequency fields in the areas but somehow forget to specify a requirement to measure ELF even though it was requested by one of the women with cancer and one of your committee members specifically mentioned excessive ELF magnetic fields may be present.
    2) Remain silent about this omission while issuing statements dismissing evidence for a connection between ELF magnetic fields and breast cancer.
    3) Wait a further two years before having ARPANSA visit the site to supposedly take the necessary measurements.
    4) Uncritically accept ARPANSA’s brief EMF survey that did not even attempt to duplicate the exposure situation the women were working in.
    5) Deny requests for access to the ARPANSA report until the 11th hour.
    6) Refuse to consider any external advice that questions the extent of the ELF investigation.
    Hopefully being a bit wiser, Professor Armstrong should now recommend the following as a priority:
    1) The nurses union be offered direct representation on the expert committee and be included in all committee discussions.
    2) As a matter of urgency first commission an ELF magnetic survey of the immediate areas where the affected hospital staff worked using both spot measurements and data loggers over several work days. The emphasis will be on determining the actual daily ELF exposures of all the women involved. Speed would be the essence for the sake of the interests of the staff.
    3) As soon as this ELF report is available to the expert committee, copies should be provided to both the union and the affected women.
    4) If the union requests an independent replication of the ELF survey by an independent consultant based in Sydney, that be allowed.
    5) An ELF survey of the entire building is then done.
    Will this be the case? I am not reassured, however, by Prof. Armstrong’s referring to this unfortunate situation as perhaps “just one of those those freaky things that occurs”.
    Whatever the outcome of this particular case it is obvious that it is an ongoing issue that the Australian trade union movement will need to be more proactive about.
    Cancer cluster suspected at Sydney hospital

    July 18, 2007 12:18pm

    Article from: AAP

    A SYDNEY hospital is investigating a possible cancer cluster after five female staff members were diagnosed with breast cancer within six years.

    Management at Concord Hospital, in Sydney’s west, today revealed it launched a preliminary investigation in May concerning cancer patterns among staff.Five female workers were diagnosed with the disease between 2001 and 2006.Hospital general manager Danny O’Connor said an expert panel had found that the number of cases were small but “higher than would be expected in the limited work area in which the cases have occurred”.”Initial advice from the panel indicates that further investigation is warranted, and today we have provided information to all staff at Concord Hospital advising them of the investigation,” Mr O’Connor said.”We have also asked any staff member who has been diagnosed with breast cancer between 1998 and 2007, and who was working at Concord Hospital at the time of diagnosis, to identify themselves to the hospital.”Mr O’Connor said a second investigation was now underway to determine whether the cases had occurred together by chance, or whether there may be another explanation.

    As part of this, the panel would carry out an epidemiological study to compare breast cancer rates among Concord Hospital staff with the rate in NSW generally.

    He said they would also complete an environmental assessment of the hospital to determine any other possible factors which could influence the breast cancer rate.

    Professor Bruce Armstrong, research director at the Sydney Cancer Centre and a member of the expert panel, said it was not yet clear whether the numbers represented a “cancer cluster”.

    “At this stage we have no evidence that staff at Concord Hospital have an increased risk of developing breast cancer as a result of their work environment,” Prof Armstrong said.

    “The purpose of this investigation is to determine if there is a higher rate of breast cancer among employees at Concord Hospital than in the general population, and if so, why.”

    The men said this phase of the investigation could take some months. In the meantime, staff and the community would be kept advised of developments, they said.

    This is one of several reports of possible disease clusters in recent times.

    In Brisbane, 15 women working at the ABC’s Toowong studios were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1994 and 2006.

    An independent expert panel found this was up to 11 times higher than normal.

    This year, the Queensland Government ordered an investigation at a Brisbane high school after nine cases of cancer were reported among present and past teachers.

    In May, the University of NSW announced a study into a high incidence of various cancers among staff in one of its faculty buildings.

    AND from ABC News:

    Cancer rate among Concord staff ‘unusually high’

    A leading cancer expert investigating a possible breast cancer cluster
    at Sydney’s Concord Hospital says there is an unusually high number of
    cases among a small group of women working at the hospital.

    Five staff members who work near each other have been diagnosed with the

    The hospital says four of the women worked in the nutrition department,
    while the fifth woman affected worked nearby at the psychology

    Professor Bruce Armstrong has previously investigated the cluster of
    breast cancer cases at the ABC’s Toowong site in Brisbane.

    Professor Armstrong says a full environmental assessment of the entire
    hospital is being carried out, to determine if the cases are more than

    “That is a distinct possibility at this stage, that this is just one of
    those those freaky things that occurs,” he said.

    “That’s why we have to do a proper investigation, and one of the
    possible outcomes of that will be that this is probably a chance

    “But until we do the investigation, we don’t know that that’s the case.”

    Professor Armstrong says there is nothing in their working environment
    that immediately stands out as a cause.

    “The proper approach to investigating that is to see whether there is an
    increased risk in women across the whole of the workforce in the
    hospital,” he said.

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