26
Mai
2006

Cancer danger at Australian mail centre: Postal workers demand inquiry and relocation

A Cautionary Tale: The Capalaba Post Office

Before the RMIT building EMF controversy is written off as ‘case-closed’ with both Radiofrequency and ELF magnetic fields being given the all-clear, it is worthwhile to consider another cancer building scare that I was briefly involved with which took place about 5 years ago at the Capalaba Post Office in Queensland.

In that case, there was a reported high incidence of cancer and other illnesses. Apparently, over the previous 10 years, out of 53 full-time staff, 25 had developed cancer or auto-immune diseases, at least four had died and others had serious illnesses. Counting part-time workers, 25 percent of the workforce have developed illnesses since 1998. The concerns of the workers was that there was an Energex electricity sub-station next to the Post Office and they were wondering if there was EMF coming from the substation that could be the cause of the illnesses.

Preliminary ELF magnetic field testing around the post office and the electricity sub-station indicated that the levels in the Post office were generally quite low (below 3 mG by memory). When I was asked to comment on the measurements I said the building readings were generally low, but there were areas of concern in the staff lunchroom and at the front counter. I concluded that “At this point, you can’t say that it is an electromagnetic field problem. The best I can say for now is we have looked at the electromagnetic field angle and there are a few areas of concern.” One of my concerns was, according to the building plans of the PO, that the building’s concrete slab was poured over two electrical earthing pads that served as the return circuit for the substation. However spot readings at the time did not indicate a problem and I left the case at that point. As it turned out however (see below) it can be very misleading to just rely on spot readings and this should serve as a cautionary tale for RMIT.

With the Capalaba PO however there were additional confounding factors, mainly previous soil contamination from a nice mix of petrol, arsenic and PCBs, so trying to find a single cause for the apparent cluster of illness was impossible and most likely a combination of environmental factors making for a very sick building.

For more on the Capalaba case see: Cancer danger at Australian mail centre: Postal workers demand inquiry and relocation
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/may2001/post-m05.shtml

and:

Interview with Australian postal worker: “Hell will freeze over before I believe that these illnesses are a coincidence”
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/may2001/poin-m05.shtml

However, as a result of the current RMIT situation, I received an email today from one of the CEPU’s consultants who had worked on the Capalaba PO case and who had further examined the EMF angle in the building. Exerpts follow:

Hi Don, JS here. I did some consulting work for CEPU on the Capalaba Post Office anomoly which had a cluster of terminal illnesses which was very significant [in my view] - but ’swept under the carpet’ by Comcare Australia ………. in the early part of 2002.

The issue there was ground current [referred to as stray voltage by some] and its relationship to off-peak signals sent to the nearby transformers. MilliGauss readings taken most of the time were not especially damning, but when the off-peak signals arrived, Gauss meters went off scale and ELF fluctuations were so unstable and large they were difficult to measure. We concluded that the monitors needed to be continuous over a minimum period of [at least] 24 hours and preferably weeks or months. The point is - the readings can be timed to miss the relevant data. Unfortunately, we did not have the equipment and funds to continue the investigation…………….. Just pointing this out in case it’s relevant to current researchers…………

Regards,

JS

Source: http://www.emfacts.com/weblog/index.php?p=480

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Frequency vs. field strength
http://www.emfacts.com/weblog/index.php?p=495

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Comments on RMIT Final Report

RMIT: An incestuous peer review?

I was asked this morning why I am not happy with the peer review that examined the primary RMIT reports and the SRMA risk assessment. See: http://mams.rmit.edu.au/g60adi0a81r3.pdf

My concerns here is that the reviewers are all Melbourne based academics appointed to the panel with the approval of RMIT, which has a very big vested interest in the outcome. The NETU lawyer has previously stated that a class action may be launched if a connection between the workplace and brain tumours was found. So it would be perfectly understandable that the emphasis of the whole exercise from RMIT’s viewpoint would be to disprove any connection between cancer cases and environmental exposures in the building.

The reviewers seem all to eager to rubber stamp the idea that there is no cancer cluster in building 108 and that “It would therefore be reasonable to conclude the investigation at this point.”

However before the investigation is closed a closer examination needs to be done on the the claims that nothing is amiss with the amount of cancer on the top floors of Building 108.

According to the Southern Medical Service Final Report of the investigation there was no correlation between offices on floor 17 with spot readings over 4 mG and all cancer cases ” It should be noted that only one of the 12 tumour cases occupied a room with a magnetic field greater than 4.0 mG and this was a benign meningioma” (page 29) With this we have to conclude that there is no association but I would have liked to have seen in the final report the floor plans of floors 16 and 17 with all room measurements given as previously by EMC Technologies but in the powered up mode (which was selectively done) - and with the actual room locations of the cancer cased identified. As the old saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words!

Don Maisch

http://www.emfacts.com/weblog/index.php?p=531



From Sam Milham:

Dear Don,

I smell a rodent. There were 4 brain cancers in the workers in floors 16-17, while according to appendix table 3, 0.29 cases would have been expected. This a significant excess using a poisson test. If the benign tumors are added to the total malignant tumors, there is also a significant excess of all tumors (obs. 13, exp. 6.9 ).

Sam Milham

http://www.emfacts.com/weblog/index.php?p=532

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Lloyd Morgan’s commentary on the RMIT Final Report

Hi Don, I have attached my commentary on the Final Report of the RMIT Cancer Cancers. Please use the usual caveats re my association with the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States to wit, “For identification purposes only. All statements are mine and mine alone and do not represent positions or opinions of the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States.”

Best regards,

Lloyd


Commentary on the Final Report of the RMIT Cancer Cases

This report is a cover-up of the first order. I will restrict my commentary to the cases of brain tumor on Levels 16 and 17.

There were 4 brain tumors reported in a population of 114 staff members in an 11 year period. These tumors were:

* One glioblastoma multiforme
* Two meningiomas
* One haemangioblastoma
* One pituitary adenoma

The report remarks that since there was only a single malignant tumour, “the presence of a single case only of a primary malignant brain tumour within the population on these floor levels does not enable an accurate epidemiological analysis.” This statement was made in the context that no “benign” brain tumour data is collected in Victoria. The report also states that a pituitary tumour is not a brain tumour stating that the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies such a tumour as “an endocrine tumour and not a brain tumour.”

There was neither an attempt to examine the incidence rate of “benign” brain tumour beyond Victoria nor was their statement correct about WHO’s classification of pituitary tumours. Pituitary tumors are classified by WHO and here in the United States as a brain tumour.

Let’s examine the facts for each of these brain tumours using data published by the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States ( http://www.cbtrus.org ).

* The age adjusted rate of glioblastoma is 3.05 per 100,000 people per year

* The age adjusted rate of meningioma is 4.53 per 100,000 people per year

* The age adjusted rate of haemangioblastoma is 0.9 per 100,000 per year

* The age adjusted rate of pituitary adenoma is 0.92 per 100,000 per year

There were 114 staff members over a period of 11 years. Thus the person-years of this cohort are 1,254. Using the above incidence rates the number of each tumor type that would be expected is:

* Expected glioblastomas are 0.038. The observed/expected ratio is 26.

* Expected meningiomas are 0.11. The observed/expected ratio is 8.8

* Expected haemangioblastomas are 0.011. The observed/expected ratio is 89.

* Expected pituitary adenomas are 0.012. The observed/expected ratio is 87.

This report is a cover up of the first order.

Source: http://www.emfacts.com/weblog/index.php?p=537

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