Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cancer cluster school test doubts

Cancer cluster school test doubts

Posted Tue Aug 12, 2008 6:27pm AEST

Tasmania's Education Department has admitted knowing about a possible cancer cluster at a Hobart school for more than 2 years.

Aurora Energy consultants tested the Hazelwood site in Moonah for electro magnetic radiation after the issue was first raised by staff in 2006.

More tests were conducted earlier this year, because staff were still concerned their illnesses were linked to radiation emitted from a nearby transmission tower and substation.

The Education Department's Deputy Secretary, Greg Glass, says he accepts the advice that there is no link between the school and staff and student illnesses.

"In relation to both environmental factors at the school and also in relation to the electro magnetic radiation readings that there is no cause for concern in relation to the health and safety of students and staff at the school."

But the State Opposition has raised concerns about the adequacy of the radiation tests.

Concerned staff say the school was largely re-wired in the weeks before the testing was done.

The Opposition's Sue Napier had questioned Education Department Officials about the issue at a Parliamentary committee hearing earlier this year.

Ms Napier says she is unsure if the Director of Public Health had all the facts.

"If he hadn't been informed that there had been a re-wiring of certain sections of the school and that systems had changed then he wouldn't have been able to do a full and proper investigation."


Hobart Mercury 13 August 2008

Focus of cancer, but testing clears school


The number of cancer cases originating from a Hobart school is "off the scale", international radiation experts say.

Radiation consultant Don Maisch has been looking into the potential cancer cluster at Hazelwood School at Moonah since a teacher who contracted cancer came to him for advice two years ago.

Since then Mr Maisch has consulted other researchers around the world including US-based epidemiologist Sam Milham.

Dr Milham has examined other school cancer clusters and described the Hazelwood cases as a serious concern.

But the Education Department says it has conducted two separate tests that have shown the level of electromagnetic radiation exposure is not harmful and the school will remain at Moonah for at least another 12 months.

Tenders will be called at the end of the month to build a new $3.5 million campus at the former Wentworth School at Howrah which was promised in the 2005-06 State Budget. That is expected to be completed by September next year.

Hazelwood is located underneath a high-voltage transmission tower that services the Nyrstar zinc smelter at Lutana and on top of an electricity sub-station.

Long-serving staff at the campus have complained of health problems dating back to 1984 and a parliamentary committee recently heard three staff, including the principal, had contracted cancer since 2006 but there had been reports of many more.

Mr Maisch said the Education Department had acted responsibly when it learned of the cases, but added it was a "very, very sick building".

Education Department deputy secretary Greg Glass said the first complaint was received in July 2006 and tests were conducted the following month by Aurora Energy. They showed the radiation was below accepted levels.

Mr Glass said that following another complaint last year, more intensive testing was conducted earlier this year that again found nothing of concern.

"We can only go on what the experts say and there has been nothing that has shown that there is any cause for concern for either staff or students at the school" Mr Glass said.

When the school moves, the building is expected to be sold.