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Rise in mesothelioma cancer cases reported near former Melbourne asbestos factory

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Cancer Asbestos Wunderlich


Rise in mesothelioma cancer cases reported near former Melbourne asbestos factory

Posted October 26, 2014 10:01:18

Former asbestos factory, Wunderlich, in Melbourne's west.

Photo: The Victorian Cancer Registry has reported a rise in mesothelioma cases near former asbestos factory, Wunderlich, in Melbourne's west. (ABC News)

Related Story: Asbestos probe ordered into old concrete plant

Map: Sunshine 3020

A rise in mesothelioma cases near a former asbestos factory in Melbourne's west has been reported by the Victorian Cancer Registry.

In the 12 years to 2013, 16 people developed the disease within two kilometres of the Wunderlich site in Sunshine North.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive asbestos-related cancer affecting the lungs and abdomen.

Victorian Health Department spokesperson Bram Alexander said the increase was not unexpected.

"There has been a slight increase in the number of deaths," Mr Alexander said.

"When you consider that this asbestos factory operated from back to the 40s and up until the early 80s, it's not unexpected to find occupational-related illness associated with people engaged in business with people in the factory."

The Wunderlich factory manufactured asbestos sheeting for 50 years up until the early 1980s and was owned by both CSR and James Hardy before it closed.

Mr Alexander said that in each of the cases, exposure occurred while the factory was in operation.

"None of these cases are recent, they all go back to when the asbestos factory was operating, before the 80s, and that's the characteristic of asbestos-related diseases," he said.

"It takes decades after initial exposure to asbestos for someone to be actually diagnosed and for the onset of illness."

Roof space, soil and air being tested for asbestos

An independent hygienist was commissioned to test asbestos levels at sites near the plant to see if there may be cases of people not directly linked to the factory.

Mr Alexander said the expert would test roof spaces, soil and air in the area, overseen by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

"The expert advisory group has determined that there needs to be more statistical and epidemiologic analysis and that does take time to do," he said.

"Already there has been a deal of work done to get to this point, but we probably need to give it some more time to nut those sorts of things out."

Last week, ABC 7.30 reported that Slater and Gordon asbestos litigation lawyer Margaret Kent had noticed that Sunshine North street names were frequently occurring in firm's case files.

"It's amazing to me how many people we had heard of, or had contact with, who played in the back of the factory," Ms Kent told the program on October 22.

"It's what kids did in North Sunshine, particularly during the 50s, 60s and 70s, there weren't many other places.

"But also we have had contact with people who worked near the factory, went to school near the factory or who simply lived near it."

The EPA would also be re-testing the 10 homes that the Herald Sun reported to be linked with asbestos last week.

Mr Alexander said there would be a meeting for concerned residents at Victoria University Convention Centre on October 30.

Topics: mesothelioma, diseases-and-disorders, health, asbestos, sunshine-3020

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