Cancer scare at PWCS
Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) have released the results of a long-running study into the carcinogenic effects of coal mining in response to growing concerns raised by the employees over the prevelance of cancer rates in the workforce.
Conducted by the University of Newcastle at PWCS's request, the study commenced in 2006 and included peer review and a medical expert's assessment of the findings.
The study surveyed hundreds of PWCS employees over a 23 year period.
Covering 859 PWCS employees from 1983 and 2006, the study found:
- 63 PWCS employees were diagnosed with cancer (58 men and 5 women).
- Melanoma, prostate and colorectal (bowel) were the most common types of cancer found, making up nearly two thirds of cases detected.
- Kooragang Island employees were 1.7 to 2.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer when compared to the NSW population, the Australian population or Carrington terminal employees.
Advice by prominent Occupational and Environmental Medicine specialist Dr Ian Gardner shows that:
- Over the 23 years covered by the study a relatively small number of cancers were diagnosed, and none of these cancers are known to be associated with occupational or environmental exposures.
- The three most common types of cancer found in this study – melanoma, prostate and colorectal - are almost always influenced by hereditary and lifestyle factors.
- These cancers are more likely to be detected by screening.
- Most common cancers are very rarely linked to occupational or environmental causes.
- There are significant regional variations in cancer, particularly melanoma, which is more prevalent in coastal areas.
PWCS has announced it is committed to all recommendations within the study, including:
- Assembling an expert panel to provide advice on developing a cancer prevention and screening program.
- Encouraging employees at Kooragang Island to contact their GPs and adhere to recommendations regarding screening for melanoma, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.
- Consulting an independent Occupational Hygienist to evaluate the Kooragang Island site and its processes to recommend improvements, possible remediation and safety procedures.
Additionally, PWCS will engage an Occupational Medical specialist to advise on health matters generally.
These measures will complement and build on many health initiatives already in place at PWCS, including: Comprehensive health programs encouraging employees to undergo cancer screening and medical check-ups.
- Asking the Hunter Prostate Cancer Alliance to give onsite advice about detecting and treating prostate cancer
- Providing UV-safe uniforms and sunscreen.
- Providing free and staffed gyms.
- Encouraging better eating practices and smoking cessation.
- Regular on-site environmental monitoring and testing, including groundwater and dust