Media releases

21 November 2008

Telephone survey of Wagerup residents released

The results of a telephone survey which asked Wagerup residents to list their health symptoms were released today.

Director of Environmental Health Jim Dodds said the telephone survey provided residents with an opportunity to self-report health symptoms they had experienced, but these were not verified at the time by a medical practitioner.

Mr Dodds said that while the Department of Health had not designed the survey, it was able to compare the results with similar information collected by the Department’s Health and Wellbeing Surveillance System.

“This comparison shows that residents in Wagerup reported chronic health conditions at a similar rate to the rest of the State, but they were more likely to self-report some symptoms such as headache, breathing difficulties, nosebleeds and skin irritation,” he said.

Mr Dodds said it was important to note that the survey was not designed to identify a direct link between emissions from the Wagerup refinery and people’s health.

“Emissions from the Wagerup refinery are well below the recommended guideline level at which they would pose a health risk to the general community, but it has long been acknowledged they may contribute to health symptoms in some people,” he said.

“The results will now provide baseline data for comparison when the survey is repeated if the Wagerup 3 development proceeds.”

A detailed examination of the WA Cancer Registry confirmed that a slight increase in Cookernup residents reporting cancer was more likely due to statistical variation than a higher risk of cancer in the region.

The survey also showed that residents in the Wagerup region were less likely to report osteoporosis and more likely to report mental health problems than the rest of the State.

The survey was recommended in the Environmental Protection Authority’s 2006 report on the proposed expansion of the Alcoa alumina refinery and was funded by Alcoa as part of a Deed of Undertaking signed with the former Western Australian Government in March 2007.

The Wagerup and Surrounds Community Health Survey is available on the Department of Health website: http://www.public.health.wa.gov.au/2/881/2/topical_issues.pm

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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