- The top floors of a Melbourne office
building were closed down yesterday and 100 people evacuated after a seventh
worker in as many years was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
- But Telstra insisted the mobile phone
towers on the roof of the 17-storey RMIT University building were not linked
to the cancer cluster.
- Five academics - who worked on the top
floor - and two general staff have suffered brain tumours since 1999. Six
of the seven staff had worked at the Bourke Street premises for more than
a decade. Two of the cases were malignant.
- "We have briefed the staff and suspect
further cases will be brought to our attention," RMIT vice-president
of resources Steve Somogyi said yesterday.
- The academics' union has demanded that
RMIT pay for medical examinations of all staff working in the building
after learning of a number of suspected new cases late yesterday.
- "We're starting to get anecdotal
reports of one or two other people who have passed away who have worked
in the building," said Matthew McGowan, Victorian branch president
of the National Tertiary Education Union.
- RMIT recently called in a Melbourne doctor
to assess information from the staff diagnosed with the tumours but he
found no obvious link with "any specific environmental hazard",
a university statement said.
- Telstra, which along with Optus reportedly
has mobile phone equipment on top of the building, said yesterday it would
co-operate with the university's investigation. "This equipment complies
with strict health and safety standards, and is regularly tested to ensure
ongoing compliance," the phone company said.
- While staff were "anxious and concerned",
the university was initially reluctant to close the top floors, Mr McGowan
said. "They were reluctant at first because they didn't want to create
- The university has started notifying
students at the building, many of whom are from overseas.
- However, serious concerns were not held
for the students.
- RMIT investigated radio frequency and
air quality after the first two cases emerged in 1999 and 2001, but all
the results were well below the recommended Australian standards, a university
- "It was thoroughly tested,"
- Yesterday's action was prompted after
a third case was reported by the institution's occupational health and
safety unit a month ago, when it emerged that other academics had also
- "We're looking at everything around
the area," the spokeswoman said.
- But Mr McGowan said the university must
be accountable for health and safety checks "across the board"
after the initial testing in 2001 was not followed up.
- "These cases have only coincidentally
come to people's attention rather than through some systematic monitoring
process," he said.
- The results of the RMIT investigation
are expected in two weeks.