Hazelwood Health Study reaches lung function testing goal

Respiratory Coordinator Brigitte Borg has thanked the Morwell community for its support.

Lung function assessments in Morwell have ended with the Hazelwood Health Study testing 347 people.

Testing in Morwell ended on 8 December with the study exceeding its target of 339.

The assessments aimed to find out whether exposure to mine fire smoke is associated with respiratory symptoms, or changes in lung health or asthma control.

“It was vital as many people participated in the assessments as possible,” Respiratory Coordinator Brigitte Borg said.

“Not only is their participation helping the researchers measure the impact of the mine fire smoke, it also provided vital information about the respiratory health profile in Morwell.

“On behalf of the study I would also like to extend our thanks to the Morwell community for their ongoing support. We will return to Morwell in about three years’ time to re-commence testing.”

Testing will now relocate to the comparison community of Sale with assessments to begin in late January.

Heart and blood vessel assessments, which have been taking place in Sale since October, will then start taking place in Morwell from mid-January with letters to eligible residents going out later this month.

Appointments will include completing questionnaires, measurements and tests administered by trained researchers in private rooms.

Residents who choose to take part in testing will be compensated for their time with a $50 gift card. Information on how to participate will be included in mailed invitations.

“Residents who participate in the testing will be invited to undergo the same assessments on two further occasions; once in three years and again in six years from now,” Ms Borg said.

Morwell community members who receive an information pack inviting them to participate in heart and blood vessel assessments should phone the bookings team on 1800 985 899 to make an appointment.

This research is funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Hazelwood Health Study hosts information night in Morwell

Latrobe Valley community members attended an engagement session in Morwell to learn more about the latest fundings and research from the Hazelwood Health Study.

Moderated by former ABC Gippsland presenter Gerard Callinan, the night featured an interview between Mr Gerard and HHS principal investigators Michael Abramson and Judi Walker about the study which included questions from the audience.

The session then broke up into small, roundtable discussions dedicated to each field of research that contributes to the study, led by the researchers.

A second and final community engagement session will be held at the Bond Street Event Centre in Sale tonight at 6.30pm.

Health study completes lung function assessments in Sale

Hazelwood Health Study Respiratory Stream Coordinator Brigitte Borg and respiratory scientists Tom McCrabb and Annie Makar.

Lung function health assessments in Sale have closed with the Hazelwood Health Study testing 173 residents.

Respiratory scientists from the Study have been testing Sale residents to find out whether exposure to smoke from the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire is associated with respiratory symptoms, or changes in lung health or asthma control.

Sale residents have been included as an important comparison community to Morwell residents who were more highly exposed. However, the research also provides vital information about the respiratory health profile of the Sale community. Testing completed in Sale on 16 March.

“On behalf of the Hazelwood Health Study, I would like to extend our thanks to the Sale community for their ongoing support and hospitality,” Respiratory Stream Coordinator Brigitte Borg said.

“The members of this community have rallied to support these assessments, which have helped to ensure the ongoing success of the Study.

“Residents who participated in the testing will be invited to undergo the same assessments on two further occasions; once in three years and again in six years from now.”

Results from the Sale assessments will be compared to tests completed in Morwell last year.

Cardiovascular health testing was also carried out in Sale last year with assessments currently underway in Morwell and expected to be completed by early May.

This research is funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Hazelwood Health Study completes baseline cancer analysis

Hazelwood Health Study researcher, Professor Malcolm Sim.

The Monash University-led Hazelwood Health Study has completed a crucial background analysis of cancers in Latrobe City and surrounding areas in the five-year period prior to the 2014 mine fire.

These results will provide a baseline against which to compare future cancer patterns that occur after the fire.

Monash University researcher Professor Malcolm Sim said the analysis showed a higher rate of mesothelioma in Latrobe City men prior to the mine fire compared to the average for regional and rural Victoria.

“The excess of mesothelioma in men in the Latrobe City is most likely due to past asbestos exposure, as this is the only known cause of mesothelioma found in Australia,” Professor Sim said.

“This may relate to past asbestos exposure in the power industry or other worksites in the region or domestic exposure due to asbestos-containing building materials.”

The Latrobe City area also displayed elevated levels of lung, liver and blood cancer in women and bladder cancer in men.

In contrast, there were no excess levels for any types of cancer in the surrounding regions, including Wellington Shire, Baw Baw, and South Gippsland council areas.

Some of these initial results may be due to chance findings, although this may be ruled out if the findings remain in future cancer data extractions.

However, Professor Sim said without further information on smoking rates, past bushfire smoke exposure and exposure to other possible carcinogens in the region, it was not possible to further investigate the relationship of such exposures to excess occurrences of these types of cancers.

The background analysis was based on cancer data extracted from the Victorian Cancer Registry, comparing cancer incidences for Latrobe City with those from the rest of rural and regional Victoria.

Further extractions will be repeated regularly for the duration of the study to monitor cancer trends following the mine fire, with a major report expected in the ninth year of the study.

Professor Sim said the Hazelwood Health Study was a useful vehicle for providing important results on a wide range of health effects related to other past exposures and health outcomes in the Latrobe Valley.

To view a summary of these findings, visit www.hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au/study-findings/fact-sheets-and- summaries, or to view the full technical report, visit www.hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au/study-findings/study- reports

The research is funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

First findings focusing on mother and baby health released

A Hazelwood Health Study analysis has found no association between exposure of pregnant women to mine fire smoke and earlier delivery or the birth weight of babies in the Latrobe Valley.

The finding is featured in the first volume of the Early Life Follow-Up Cohort Study report that looked at whether Hazelwood mine fire smoke exposure affected pregnancy or birth outcomes in children from the Valley.

Hazelwood Health Study researcher Fay Johnston.

HHS researcher Dr Fay Johnston said her team did not find an association between mothers’ exposure to smoke from the mine fire and birth before full term (37 weeks), birth weight at term or weight for stage of pregnancy.

“This preliminary analysis took into account the possible influence of risk factors like age of mothers and cigarette smoking during pregnancy,” Dr Johnston said.

“While these initial results are reassuring, this study was relatively small and small studies cannot always identify weak associations that might be present.”

Researchers surveyed 548 children from the Latrobe Valley who were born between 1 March 2012 and 1 December 2015.

This analysis was conducted by the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania as part of the larger, Monash University-led Hazelwood Health Study.

Researchers estimated how much smoke each child may have been exposed to by matching their home address with the daily estimated amount of air pollution in that area during the mine fire period.

They also found other well-recognised factors, including smoking in pregnancy and the amount of general stress during pregnancy, were correlated with lower birth weights in babies in this study.

“It is important to stress that this report only presents some initial findings from the survey completed by parents or carers of participating children. More results will be presented in later reports,” Dr Johnston said.

Researchers will now complete a larger study of hospital records for babies born in the Latrobe Valley. This will cover the same time period of the survey.

This research was funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

To view a summary of these findings, click here.

To view the full technical report, click here.

Call for Expressions of Interest – Community Advisory Committee

The Hazelwood Health Study has an active Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to ensure the study hears directly from and works in partnership with local residents and stakeholders in the Latrobe Valley and in Sale.

The meetings take place on a regular basis at the Monash University campus at Latrobe Regional Hospital. Committee membership includes up to six community members from the Latrobe Valley and up to four community members from Sale (the community chosen as the comparison group for the adult health assessments). These positions are non-representative and voluntary. In addition, the Committee includes organisational representatives from health and community service providers, local government and Federation University.

We are currently seeking expressions of interest from Latrobe Valley and Sale residents with an interest in the long-term health outcomes from the mine fire and the future wellbeing of the community.

We are keen to involve people from diverse backgrounds in the discussion, including people from different age groups, cultural backgrounds and those with and without prior experience in similar committees. The selection of the community members will be at the discretion of a selection committee to ensure a broad range of inputs into the committee including age and gender balance.

This call for expressions of interest will close on Friday 1 February 2019.

To download the application form, please click here.

For more information about the study, the committee, and the call for expressions of interest, please visit hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au or call Melissa Peppin on 5122 7102.

Study releases first findings from Adult Survey

Morwell residents reported higher levels of respiratory problems compared to Sale residents following the 2014 mine fire event, Hazelwood Health Study researchers have found. The finding was revealed in the first report from the Adult Survey which collected health information from 3,096 Morwell residents and 960 Sale residents between May 2016 and February 2017.

The survey was conducted in the comparison community of Sale because it had much less exposure to the mine fire smoke, but was comparable to Morwell in size, rural location, and population characteristics.

“The analysis of the Adult Survey provides the first available evidence of adverse cardiovascular, respiratory and psychological effects of the Hazelwood mine fire on the adults in Morwell,” Hazelwood Health Study Principal Investigator Michael Abramson said.

“Morwell residents were more likely to report that a doctor had diagnosed them with asthma since the mine fire. Also, among asthmatics, symptoms were reported to be more severe in Morwell than in Sale.”

Professor Abramson also said that since the mine fire, Morwell participants were one and a half times more likely than Sale participants to report that a doctor had diagnosed them with high blood pressure (6.6% in Morwell compared to 4.5% in Sale).

“Morwell residents were also seven times more likely to report that a doctor had diagnosed them with a heart attack since the mine fire. However, heart attack was reported by 1% of Morwell participants and only 0.1% of Sale participants, and findings based upon such small numbers should be interpreted with caution,” he said.

Hazelwood Health Study researcher Dr Matthew Carroll said while there were no significant differences prior to the fire in terms of history of stressful life events and mental health diagnoses, Morwell residents were more likely to report symptoms of distress following the event and more likely to report that a doctor had diagnosed them with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, again the findings were based on small numbers (1.4% in Morwell) and should also be interpreted with caution.

Professor Abramson said this report presented just broad differences between Morwell and Sale based on self-reported data.

“Future linkages to administrative health datasets (such as ambulance and hospital data) will complement the self-reported data. The Adult Survey findings will be further strengthened by analyses which blend CSIRO modelled air pollution data with participants’ location information, to measure any association between estimated individual mine fire smoke exposure and health outcomes,” Professor Abramson said.

More objective information about the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases following the mine fire will be provided by the Cardiovascular and Respiratory research streams.

The Adult Survey team thanked the Morwell and Sale communities for participating in the Adult Survey. It is recommended that people with any ongoing concerns about their health following the Hazelwood mine fire visit their General Practitioner.

This research was funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

A summary of these findings can be found here.

The full technical report can be found here.