NSW Health must do more to investigate concerns about a possible cancer cluster in the village of Mooball, a local doctor says.
Doctor Paul Malouf said he knew of about 30 people in the tiny village of Mooball who have contracted different types of cancer.
The village has a population of about 400.
The Tweed Valley Way and Pottsville Road were previously used as a dumping ground for radioactive sand mining tailings.
He said it was possible the remaining radioactivity had affected nearby residents.
“I feel that it’s got to be investigated,” he said.
“If you are finding 30 cases of cancer in 30 dwellings along one stretch of the road and the off-shoot into the Pottsville Road, I think that they need to be doing more than what they are doing.”
According to Dr Malouf, health issues in the area were not limited to cancer.
“Probably the majority are related to gynaecological cancers in women, breast and ovarian,” he said.
“There’s also a young boy died of brain cancer, there were a number of miscarriages suffered.
“There was also a male had an auto-immune disease, which he passed away from.
“These people, over a long period of time, used the left-over tailings for fill in their backyards.”
“We know the history of the sand mining and the potential radiation risks that are still there above normal levels.
“We’re just asking for health department investigation, it’s not that hard.”
Former council worker among cancer sufferers
A man who worked with radioactive sand in the area is among those who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Geoff Keevers said radioactive sand mining tailings were used as fill on some properties in the village in the 1980s.
He said he was one of six Tweed Shire Council employees who spent seven months removing the material.
“We had to dig the radioactive sand out and replace it with clean fill, I guess you would call it,” Mr Keevers said.
“We wore a Geiger counter on our belt that we never ever got results from, except to say it was OK.”
Further information needed, NSW Health says
The NSW Department of Health said more detailed information was needed to justify any further investigation.
North Coast Public Health Unit spokesman Paul Corben, said staff from the department had met with Dr Malouf to discuss his concerns, but he said a specific timeframe was needed.
“We’ve taken this very seriously,” Mr Corben said.
“We’ve looked at the available information and we’ve tried to make sense of the information we have.
“One in two Australians will have a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Vague assertions that there are all sorts of different cancers, in an indeterminate area, over an indeterminate period aren’t terribly productive in us moving on.
“If the community goes ahead and does some measurements of radiation levels, then that will give us some additional information and we might be able to move on it.”
Greens’ MLC Jan Barham recently tabled a list of questions and concerns about the issue in the NSW Parliament.
She said residents had a right to know if their neighbourhood was safe.
“When people are starting to experience in such a small locality a high incidence of cancer, they have a right to
know whether or not their living environment that was guaranteed to be safe by the government’s intervention in the 1980s, whether that standard has changed and whether or not they’ve been exposed to risk,” Ms Barham said.