Australian authorities are alarmed over reports of cancer in construction workers at work on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Five have already died, while three others are ill. The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is investigating.
For over 10 years, the effected workers were involved in the painting and maintenance of the bridge, said the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
Mr. Mal Tulloch, the CFMEU state secretary said that it seems the whole area is contaminated with lead.
He further said that workers are aware of the fact that it is dangerous to work at the site, but believe that inhaling the particles can be prevented by taking some precautionary measures and the RTA should take immediate steps to investigate the claims.
Ian Olver, who is the Chief Executive of Cancer Council Australia, said that there is not much evidence to prove that lead actually leads to lung and stomach cancer; sometimes it is also loosely linked with brain, kidney, and bowel cancer.
He further stated that if such concerns are raised then the issue should be looked into before making definite claims.
In as early as 2000, a stop-work order was issued on sections of the bridge by the Environment Protection Authority following concerns that carcinogenic paint particles were being released during grinding and sand blasting. Also a health-monitoring program was measuring the exposure to lead and other chemicals for all workers on the bridge. This included blood testing for lead and zinc every six months, full blood and biological testing once a year and lung testing every three years. According to an RTA spokeswoman, "The safety standards and monitoring process has proven effective, with bridge workers' current blood lead levels falling well below the Work Cover guidelines...The RTA holds no records of staff working on the bridge having cancer and a link between the Sydney Harbour Bridge and cancer has never been previously raised by the unions." The unions however feel that the RTA knew all this while and demand immediate remedial action.