#1114: A revisionist history of ABC Toowong
Today ABC News reported that Professor Bruce Armstrong, who led the expert panel that investigated the ABC Toowong breast cancer case, has given the all clear for the ABC.
According to Armstrong the incidence of breast cancer at the studios was what would be expected in that population and that there is no need to continue looking into breast cancer rates among the ABCs national work force. Armstrong added that the results from the latest study are enormously reassuring.
Really? Reassuring for who I wonder”¦..certainly the ABC management and Comcare who may now be able to rescind the womens”™ workers compensation claims and save a pile of money.
However, here”™s what the Armstrong expert panel reported in December 2006:
ABC Managing Director Mark Scott said the panel had concluded that the number of breast cancer cases among ABC staff at Toowong over the past decade represented an unusually high incidence when compared to the general population.
And on July 18, 2007:
ABC Toowong breast cancer claims accepted
Comcare today accepted workers”™ compensation claims from nine women who worked at the ABC studios in Toowong, Brisbane and subsequently suffered breast cancer.
Experts confirmed evidence of a significantly increased incidence of breast cancer at ABC Toowong for the period from 1994 to 2006 compared to women of equivalent age in Queensland. At the same time, experts were unable to find any link between the cancers and the work environment or the technology in use at the Toowong workplace. Comcare”™s workers”™ compensation scheme has a provision to cover exceptional circumstances like these. After examining the ABC”™s comprehensive report into the cases and commissioning further expert advice, Comcare was able to accept the claims for compensation.
However history has been revised and now we are assured that there was apparently nothing exceptional at the Toowong ABC studios after all!
What is to be concluded from this recant other than that the Toowong Expert Panel must have got it terribly wrong with their 2006-2007 epidemiological assessment of a significant breast cancer cluster at the ABC studios.
Whatever the case, I am not assured by the latest expert dismissals, considering that in 2006-2007 the expert panel, led by Armstrong, discounted the possibility of power frequency magnetic fields. As such, an adequate assessment of this aspect was never conducted other than a brief look-see by ARPANSA a whole 2 years after one of the women at Toowong requested one be done.
One wonders just what the Toowong expert panel did get right?
ABC cancer rate ‘not abnormal’
August 25, 2009
A report into the incidence of breast cancer within the ABC has found staff across Australia do not face a higher risk of being diagnosed with the disease, compared to the rest of the population.
The national broadcaster abandoned its Toowong studios in Brisbane in late 2006 because of a breast cancer cluster.
Professor Bruce Armstrong led the investigation into the ABC cancer cluster at Toowong.
A study by the Cancer Council New South Wales released today found staff in all states, except Queensland, do not face a higher risk of the disease than the rest of the population.
It shows 48 out of almost 6,000 female employees had breast cancer between 1994 and 2005.
The number of cases expected nationally is 42.8.
Professor Armstrong says the results released today from the national study are “enormously reassuring”.
He says there is no need to continue looking into breast cancer rates among the ABCs national work force.
“I think there’s a clear bill of health as far as women employed by the ABC in the rest of Australia is concerned,” he said.
“Clearly if for some reason or other some new or useful information came up about Toowong, then maybe it would be necessary to do something.”
In an email to staff today, ABC managing director Mark Scott said he welcomed the findings of the report.
“This has been a landmark report, the most exhaustive epidemiological survey conducted in an Australian workplace,” he said.
“While the Toowong study identified nothing at the site to explain the cause of the cancer cluster, we needed to be reassured that rates of breast cancer in our work force were not statistically abnormal.
“The independent Cancer Council NSW study has established that statistically ABC staff face no higher a breast cancer risk than the rest of the Australian population.
“I am advised that there is therefore no need to undertake any further investigations into this issue.”
Mr Scott says Professor Bruce Armstrong and the expert panel assessed the report.
The panel said in its assessment that the report provided evidence for “a lack of material increase in the risk of breast cancer in women employed by the ABC in locations outside Queensland in the period 1994 to 2005”.
“It is our view that the results of the Women’s Health Study provide the ABC with substantial reassurance that there is no material increase in breast cancer risk in women employed between 1994 and 2005 outside Queensland,” it added.
“We see no reason for the ABC to undertake any further investigations into the risk of breast cancer in its female employees.”
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