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Fourteen children in and around Mona Vale develop cancer in 10 years since medical supplies company began discharging ethylene oxide gas

Posted by gmarkets on 22 September, 2007

 Fourteen children in and around Mona Vale have developed cancer in the 10 years since a medical supplies company there began discharging a gas associated with the disease, and two of the children live less than a kilometre from the factory. But the company that operated the plant, Unomedical, said no cancers can be attributed to the emission of ethylene oxide, which was listed by the World Health Organisation as a carcinogen, reported The Sydney Morning Herald (14/8/2007, p.1).

Children cancer cluster? Glen Varley, whose four-year-old son, Lachlan, has leukaemia, was angry the company was allowed to emit the gas for so long. Varley, who lived within a kilometre of Unomedical, did not believe the fumes caused his son’s illness, but told a residents’ meeting last week he knew of six local children with cancer. “I just wanted to alert everyone that cancers have been found out here in this area. Maybe it’s a contributing factor, we will never know,” he said. “We have been told cancers in children are rare but we get a hell of a lot in this area. It doesn’t seem rare to us.”

Leukemia factor in cancers: Dr Luce Dalla Pozza of the Oncology unit at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead, said of the 14 children with cancer, seven had leukemia. “As much as we want to blame pesticides and toxins, it falls into the realm of chance. But Mr Vailey … has every right to concerned. Even if it was safe, it seems a silly thing to do to let the exhaust occur.”

Unomedical says no ethylene oxide monitoring: Mona Vale activist Kim Brebach called on Unomedical to say how much ethylene oxide had been emitted, but a company spokesman, John MacGregor, said such data did not exist. “There was never any requirement for the company to monitor that. I can understand why people … are concerned but the company is spending about half a million [dollars] to import and install a catalytic converter, which should overcome any air quality questions.” He said NSW Health had written to residents advising them that no cancers could be sourced to the plant.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 14/8/2007, p. 1

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