Breast cancer cluster in Australia: ABC Toowong to close after cancer scare

It has just been reported in the Australian media that there has been a further occurrence of breast cancer at the ABC building at Toowong, Queensland. Concerns were raised earlier in 2005 and the Queensland health department’s 2005 report is at:

Note in the first of the three news items below where Konrad Jamrozik, a Professor of “Evidence Based Health Care” takes the bizarre opinion that there are no known environmental causes of breast cancer. To quote: “Not pesticides, not background radiation, not mobile telephones, no, none of those things.” However the professor does suggest that a factor may be the woman’s consumption of alcohol may be important !!!!!!!!! Perhaps it was those Friday afternoon drinking sessions at the local pub that are the cause! The inference of the professor is that it is probably the fault of the woman because of their life styles.

Professor Jamrozik’s ignorance of the evidence is inexcusable. Is this what “evidence based health care” is all about? For a start the professor should read the breast cancer archives on this list:


AND what about the EMF testing to date? Did they try the same old spin as at RMIT? All is fine as the measured levels were below the NH&MRC guidelines. Lets hope they do an honest investigation and not rely on evidenced based bullshit. Of course the EMF possibility may not be a factor at all. But the CLEAR evidence to date in Australia shows a great reluctance to even consider the possibility.

Don Maisch

PM - ABC Brisbane considers move over cancer cases

PM - Thursday, 6 July , 2006 18:33:08

Reporter: Melanie Christiansen MARK COLVIN: The ABC’s Brisbane management says it will consider moving its staff to another building because of a cluster of breast cancer cases.

ABC staff were advised today that another employee had undergone a mastectomy operation this week. It’s the ninth confirmed case of breast cancer among ABC Brisbane staff in 11 years. But ABC management say there’s still no evidence of any link between the cases, as Melanie Christiansen reports.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: Journalist Jo Stone was 31 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time she was working as a producer in the ABC’s Brisbane newsroom.

JO STONE: I was diagnosed in March last year, after another producer was diagnosed, and I’ve had four operations now. I’ve had lymph nodes removed, I’ve had radiation, I’ve gone two years of drug treatment as well.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: For her, the latest case of breast cancer at the ABC is shocking news.

JO STONE: It’s just devastating. It’s devastating to hear, and it’s frightening, and I’m angry, I’m really angry and I want to know why. I want to know, there’s no … they say it’s just a coincidence, but it just seems too much to be a coincidence now, especially now. And I think, I think that the ABC should close that place down while they do testing.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: Jo Stone has now left the ABC in Brisbane. Another of the women affected, Nadia Farha, is still working there.

NADIA FARHA: It’s pretty, I think troubling, and unsettling to hear of the news, because I think you try and put it all behind you and get on with your life, and then you hear something like this and it brings all back into focus and it throws into doubt, you know, your future. And you wonder, you know, should I still be working here? Your head says be sensible and they can’t find anything, but your heart says well maybe there is something there that no one can pinpoint and requires further investigation.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: But she’s not sure about calls to move the ABC’s Brisbane operation.

NADIA FARHA: I know some people are saying that, and I know some people want to walk out of the building and not come back. I really don’t know. I spoke to my breast surgeon about the situation, and he even said to me it was a really freaky occurrence, and I told him the history, I told him they’d looked at the building and done the investigation, and I said to him what do you think we should do? And he said tear down the building.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: Lisa Backhouse is the weekend newsreader and presenter of Queensland’s Stateline program. She too is still undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

LISA BACKHOUSE: I think it’s time we took the issue seriously. When RMIT recently had a case where they had seven brain tumours in their staff and in students, they closed the building and said that the safety of their staff was their priority and no one was going to be allowed back into the building until they had thoroughly tested the site, the soil, the water, the air. I think it’s time that the ABC had a very close look at the premises here at Toowong, to consider whether perhaps it’s time we took it as seriously.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: But the ABC’s Queensland Director, Chris Wordsworth, says the site has already been thoroughly tested by Queensland Health and others for any possible cause of breast cancer.

CHRIS WORDSWORTH: We’ve have undertaken a number of tests by independent organisations and, like the Queensland Health investigation, they have cleared the site of any known or probable link between breast cancer and working on this site.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: People have talked about whether the operation should be moved from this site. Is that something management would consider?

CHRIS WORDSWORTH: You and I have just come from a meeting with concerned staff, and I have given them my word that I would look at all suggestions from them.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: Given these are colleagues and friends, as you said, would you be happier if the operation moved sites?

CHRIS WORDSWORTH: If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes, but to date, there is nothing that we have been presented with by independent third parties or anyone else for that matter that would lead us to taking that sort of drastic action.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: That’s a view supported by Konrad Jamrozik, a Professor of Evidence Based Health Care at the University of Queensland.

KONRAD JAMROZIK: In thinking about breast cancer and its distribution in the world, and within particular countries and populations, there is at the moment no major recognised environmental factor. A woman’s reproductive history, and increasing evidence about the amount of alcohol that women consume may be also important.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: But nothing environmental?

KONRAD JAMROZIK: Not pesticides, not background radiation, not mobile telephones, no, none of those things.

MARK COLVIN: Professor Konrad Jamrozik ending that report from Melanie Christiansen.

9th ABC cancer woman

07 July 06 A NINTH woman in 12 years has been diagnosed with breast cancer while working at an ABC newsroom in Brisbane.

ABC state director Chris Wordsworth said staff at the Toowong site were told yesterday that the employee underwent a mastectomy this week.

A Queensland Health investigation last April found no link between the cases and the Toowong site.

Mr Wordsworth said independent tests, including for electromagnetic and radio frequency emissions, had also not identified a cause.

“We have undertaken a number of tests by independent organisations and, like the Queensland Health investigation, they have cleared the site of any known or probable link between breast cancer and working on the site,” he said.

Jo Stone, an ABC television reporter at Toowong diagnosed with breast cancer last March, called for the site to be relocated.

“They say it’s a coincidence but it just seems too much to be a coincidence now,” she said.

The Toowong cases follow a recent cancer cluster scare at an RMIT University building in Melbourne, where seven people who worked on the top floors have been diagnosed with brain tumours in the past seven years. Health authorities insist there is no evidence of any link with mobile phone towers on the site’s roof.



Last Update: Friday, July 7, 2006. 7:00am (AEST)

Management to consult staff on ABC cancer cases A senior ABC news manager from Sydney will travel to Brisbane today as staff at the Toowong site consider industrial action over the ninth reported case of breast cancer in 11 years. Today’s visit by Alan Sunderland, the ABC’s head of network and state coverage, follows yesterday’s revelations another worker had surgery for breast cancer this week. “The reason I’m going up there is not to tell people everything is okay,” he said. “The reason I’m going up there is to find out what further investigations we can do.” The union will also meet staff. David Waters from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance says some are demanding they be relocated. “While there are ongoing diagnoses of cancer, the most determined action needs to be taken,” he said. ABC management says tests have cleared the Toowong site of any link to the ‘cancer cluster’. But Mr Sunderland says he understands why some staff want to move the inner Brisbane operation after yesterday hearing about the latest case, and he does not rule that out. “ABC’s keen to do everything it possibly can to make sure it’s investigating the situation, taking the best advice available to it, I’m confident we’re doing that,” he said. “But obviously I want to hear from the staff themselves. I’m interested in hearing any suggestions for what more we can do or should do.”


Comments about: http://www.emfacts.com/weblog/index.php?p=511
from Iris Atzmon

“Not pesticides, not background radiation, not mobile telephones, no, none of those things.” - I think the Israeli cancer association would readily hire him. It is indeed the fashion among “the cancer industry” to speak like that. They call it “evidence based”. I call it “cash based”. The evidence is the last thing on their minds. I would check who funds him.

With regard to measurements, here are some general lessons I learnt from the Israeli experience:

- never to believe easily to the reported results until you check them yourself and until you know exacly where they measured the radiation. For example measurments in Israel are done many times in places where the person is not present like behind trees, outside buildings instead of inside and tricks like that. Especially to be suspicious when the results are not given in clear numbers but in vague sentences like “percentage from the standard” or “stands within the standard”. What are the exact numbers? This is the question. Saying that results are similar to other places doesn’t prove anything, maybe also in other places there are clusters that are not reported? etc.

- There may be a calibration problem in other countries as there is in Israel. It was found out that the Israeli laboratory that calibrates the measurement devices is not an authorized laboratory by the national authority for laboratories authorization, which means it is not authorized to calibrate the radiation devices because it does not stand in ISO 17025 standard. There was a meeting about it in the parliament with the Env. ministry but the Environment ministry (that changed its name lately to “environmental protection ministry”, I don’t really know why because it’s not what they are doing) still ignores the problem. There were found significant differences between results from the laboratory and results that were received in other devices that were calibrated abroad. Sometimes 10 fold differences. Still, the state insists to calibrate in this particular laboratory, and the head of the laboratory who actually calibrates the devices (although his laboratory is not authorized) gives lectures to the public which are paid by industry which is conflict of interest, and generally he is very connected with the industry. This situation can be also in other countries, Israel didn’t invent the wheel.



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More on the half-hearted ABC Toowong breast cancer investigation


Cancer fear makes ABC move out

December 21, 2006 - 1:45PM


ABC's news department will abandon its Brisbane studios following an investigation that blamed the workplace for the high incidence of breast cancer among female workers.

The independent review could not pinpoint the cause of the cancer, but concluded it was related to the office environment, ABC radio reported.

Some staff would move out today, others would go coming days.

Experts have spent the past five months conducting an investigation after it was revealed 12 women who worked at the Toowong office in Brisbane's inner-west had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 11 years.

Eight of the women worked in the newsroom and most had been there for more than five years.

ABC managing director Mark Scott met with staff today to discuss the findings of the investigation and tell them of the planned relocation.

Earlier this year Mr Scott said he would not relocate staff unless the investigation found evidence of a cancer cluster.

The study showed women who worked at the office reported breast cancer at a rate 11 times higher than the general working community, ABC radio reported today.

Almost 100 ABC staff members walked off the job in July to demand a relocation.

All female staff working at the Toowong office were immediately offered free mammograms, and a free counselling service was made available during the investigation.

Mr Scott has today extended the offer to women at other ABC sites around Australia, ABC radio reported. he review, chaired by Sydney University public health professor Bruce Armstrong, concluded it would have been reasonable for 1.6 women in the studio to have suffered breast cancer, but the prevalence could not be due to a statistical abnormality.

It found women who worked for the broadcaster in Brisbane were between three and 11 times more likely to suffer breast cancer.

The report ruled out a number of lifestyle and environmental factors, but was unable to pinpoint the cause.

The women did not have a higher level of personal risk factors, as all did significant amounts of exercise, were non-smokers and none had a family history of cancer.

The investigation also tested radiation levels in the building and ruled that out as the cause.

An ABC reporter who attended the meeting with Mr Scott said about 250 people worked at the studio.

Staff in the newsroom, where the concentration of cancer was highest, would move out today, she said.

Most would probably work temporarily at the Ten Network and Network Seven's newsrooms.

Staff at other programs such as Australian Story and Landline would be moved to a temporary location in coming days, she said.

"When Mark Scott, the managing director, handed down the report, there were a number of women who were crying," the reporter said.

"A combination of emotions for the people they know, the women who have had breast cancer, and of course for these young girls in their early 30s who are now concerned that they might have ... conducted breast cancer because they've worked there."

Informant: binstock


ABC television studios new low radiation levels cancer probe

ABC TV on cancer cluster


Australian Story looks inside a health and workplace crisis that's been described as a first in Australia and possibly the world.

Arguably it's a situation that could have happened anywhere. But it happened at the national broadcaster and it involves people more used to reporting the news than making the news.

The crisis became a major news story just before Christmas when the ABC announced the closure of its Queensland headquarters because of the confirmed high level of breast cancer among women employees, many of them only in their 30s and early 40s.

The closure, thought to be on a scale that is unprecedented, followed a report by an independent scientific panel appointed by the ABC's new Managing Director, Mark Scott.

The report found that the incidence of breast cancer among women working at the ABC in Brisbane was around six times higher than expected. The chances of this being a statistical fluke were put at "one in a million''.

Mr Scott says, "breast cancer clusters like this hadn't been found anywhere else in the world.'' He recalls that when he first heard the statistic he had to check that he was hearing correctly.

But no on-site cause could be found at the time, although investigations are continuing.

Australian Story has the personal stories of the women who say their long campaign against the site has been justified. And the program – comprising two episodes - looks at the medical and scientific mystery that remains and the possible implications for women everywhere.


Million to One (Part 1) - Transcript

With kind regards

Sarah Dacre
ACIB London, UK

Informant: Martin Weatherall


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