segunda-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2007

Cancer cluster at fire station

A FAR north Queensland fire station will be investigated after a report that as many as six current and former employees have been diagnosed with cancer.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS), the state government and the United Firefighters Union (UFU) said they would work together to investigate the Atherton fire station, south-west of Cairns.
A Queensland Health official, a senior medical officer and a toxicologist will visit Atherton this week to inspect the building and interview staff.

QFRS Commissioner Lee Johnson said the QFRS had been told last Wednesday that "five, possibly six" current and former Atherton fire fighters had been diagnosed with various forms of cancer in recent years.

As a result, Commissioner Johnson established an advisory group of QFRS, Queensland Health and union officials late last week.

The investigation will take in the Atherton fire station building, as well as the health of current and former employees stationed there.

It will also look at whether the affected officers attended the same or similar incidents during their time at the station.

Commissioner Johnson, Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts and UFU state secretary Mark Walker met with Atherton staff yesterday to explain their plan, listen to concerns and outline the support available.

"While there is no evidence at this stage to suggest there is a link to the fire station building, QFRS is examining alternative locations if needed," Mr Roberts said.

The QFRS has confirmed the Atherton fire station site is not on the contaminated land register.

The Atherton station is staffed by 10 permanent firefighters and 18 auxiliary firefighters.

The fire station building was opened in 1959.

Commissioner Johnson said peer support and professional counselling for QFRS staff and their families was available through FireCare.

Mr Walker said the UFU fully supported the QFRS' actions.

"The welfare of our members and their families is the utmost priority," Mr Walker said.

"We will work together with all concerned to ensure the best outcome for those involved."

A QFRS spokesman asked that the privacy of their staff and their families be respected.

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