LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 11 Number 3, June 2011, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times (ISSN 1440-4966) & Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor: Anne Roberts

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A critique of some of those involved in the dispute about Rosebery

By Kay Seltitzas and Isla MacGregor, Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce Tasmania (THMTT

Chrissie Pickin – The 'cheap' investigation or 'don't look and you won't find'

It has been useful for the DHHS to admit that “The Department says neither it nor Professors Daly and Braitberg had access to the full medical records of each of the residents, nor were they able to directly examine the patients”. This is important, in view of examples of incorrect attribution of data to patients and conclusions drawn on medications assumed to be taken by patients and numerous other examples, outlined in detail in our full Critique at: http://www.lead.org.au/mr/20100415Rosebery_Toxic_Heavy_Metals_Taskforce.html

Professors Braitberg and Daly failed to acknowledge that all these patients had been attempting to find the cause of their illnesses for years prior to the DHHS/EPA investigation instigated after the poisoning of the cat Kuba.

The fact that no patient’s GP chose to discuss with the Professors any matters relating to their views about their findings is of particular interest. The THMTT's view about GPs declining to discuss these issues with the Professors is because the GPs would not agree with the findings. Having observed the consequences for Dr Andreas Ernst as a result of his diagnosis, patients’ GPs would not want to leave themselves open to similar treatment by the DHHS.

Residents involved in the health investigation by the DHHS at no time “demanded compensation” from the mine. They did ask for relocation and even Mayor Darryl Gerrity suggested in the early stages of the investigation that they be temporarily relocated until such time as the investigations had been finalised.

Chrissie Pickin continues to assert that there are no exposure pathways for heavy metals for residents living in the middle of a mining operation, which - over the decades of operation- has contributed to severe acid mine drainage (especially arsenic and cadmium) affecting private residential properties. Inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact are the known pathways for heavy metal poisoning in mining towns throughout the world. HELLO!!!

There is considerable scientific evidence that shows that long term low level exposure to low levels of toxic chemicals or metals can result in build up in tissues and bones . Chrissie Pickin has not provided any evidence from testing of tissues, nerves, nails or bone from residents with raised heavy metals levels in blood or urine. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence .

Chrissie Pickin states “The understanding of the DHHS, supported by toxicologists who were consulted for advice, is that synergistic interactions and any resultant adverse health effects are associated only with high levels of exposure – at or above individual toxicity threshold level for the metals concerned,” despite considerable available scientific evidence to the contrary. Although this evidence has been provided to Chrissie Pickin repeatedly, no response has been received by THMTT to this research. A recent article by Linda Birnbaum, Director of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIES) and the National Toxicology Program published in Environmental Health Perspectives states:

“There are several recent examples of how research supported by the NIEHS is leading to a paradigm shift in understanding how environmental toxicants – even at very low-level exposures – can have significant consequences including dysfunction and disease”. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0CYP/is_11_117/ai_n42284545/ ]

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) (Land and Water website) states:

'Research on the outcomes of contaminants has tended to focus on single chemicals tested under highly controlled conditions. In reality, ecosystems are complex environmental matrices (e.g., water, sediments, soil and air) and mixtures are the norm. The effect of a contaminant when assessed in isolation may be very different to the effect of a mixture. Chemical interactions (due to mixtures) may result in dramatically different fate, effects and risk profiles.

CSIRO are investigating chemical interactions between contaminants as mixtures (and the implications for their environmental outcomes) – in order to develop theories for sub-lethal effects and models incorporating multi-contaminants, multi-stressor and multi-compartmental systems.' See: http://lwa.gov.au/programs/national-river-contaminants-program

Of concern is Chrissie Pickin's statement that, based on bio-monitoring results, there is no evidence of synergistic effects. This claim is made in the absence of any tests that could be used to provide data for low level exposure over time i.e., nails, nerves, tissue or bone.

The spurious reasons that were turned out by DHHS officials to justify their failing to undertake a proper population-based health survey in Rosebery are truly amazing:

  1. That the yellow lids on SARSTEDT (a Medical Diagnostic & Laboratory Products company) specimen bottles contaminated the urine samples with cadmium. DHHS could not prove that specimen bottles obtained from Analytical Services Tasmania for these samples were contaminating samples.
  2. That one person with extremely high levels of blood cadmium might have swallowed cadmium button batteries. This person was subjected to an X-ray which found that no cadmium batteries had been swallowed.
  3. That the body manufactures cadmium.
  4. That high levels of biological cadmium found in blood and urine could only be caused by smoking. Some of these residents didn’t smoke at all and another who was a lifetime smoker had the expected cadmium level of 4.
  5. That one resident who does not, nor has ever smoked, was ‘seen’ smoking. This allegation was included in the Final Report even though it was totally incorrect.
  6. That some residents who returned high levels of arsenic from urine samples must have been eating fish/seafood/mushrooms. None of the four people involved ate fish/seafood or mushrooms at all and also knew that a person had to refrain from eating these prior to testing.
  7. That specific medications being taken by several residents were causing their biological metal levels to be high. These residents were taking none of the alleged medications at all.
  8. That because one person was pregnant, this was the only cause possible for her higher levels of copper.
  9. That the cause of one woman’s higher copper levels was because she was on the pill. This person was not on the pill.
  10. That one person’s illness was caused by Hormone Replacement Therapy. This person had not been on HRT for well over a year before falling ill. This same person, now back on HRT, and still smoking, has had normal levels of blood cadmium and copper since leaving Rosebery.
  11. That residents had intercurrent illness. [A separate illness that occurs at the same time as another disease that can affect the course of the disease.]
  12. That it is good for you to have nickel in the body.
  13. That one resident was told over the telephone that she had cancer. This resident does not have cancer.
  14. That alcohol causes many of these symptoms even though none of the residents involved in the investigation drank alcohol.
  15. “This sounds like a June Bug event…an account of hysterical contagion”. (Dr Ian Sale Hobart Psychiatrist – comment on Crikey.com article on Rosebery 10-7-09).
  16. All residents diagnosed by Dr Ernst were suffering from a somatic illness.
  17. Two members of Tasmania Police visited two residents and asked whether the residents might have enemies who would try to poison their properties.
  18. The houses were built with fill material from waste rock therefore the heavy metal contaminants could not have come from the Rosebery Mine.
  19. That batteries from historic mining activities had been disposed of on one resident’s property.
  20. That the properties may contain sheet metal or buried car bodies that caused high metal levels.
  21. That mullock (waste material from a mine) was brought in many years ago and dumped on the properties.
  22. That the gas bubbles could possibly be methane. (From sewage?)
  23. That “the elevated (heavy metal) levels are natural, being associated with sulphide mineralisation in the Rosebery area.” In the ‘absence of evidence’ (on the public record) given that no hydro-geological testing in any investigations in Rosebery was carried out, this is the worst example of non science from the DHHS imaginable.
  24. That the death/illness of pets could have been caused by snake bites.

This list gives a clear picture that the Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Service (PEHS) investigation in Rosebery was designed to find sources of contamination on peoples’ property other than the mine.

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