Long time resident of the small Queensland community, Gilsens Road near the Noosa River and newcomers are in a state of anxiety as they suspect the sprayed agricultural chemicals at the nearby macadamia plantation may be detrimental to their health, their animals and the fish at the local hatchery.
Contradictory to the claims made by Queensland Health through health specialists that have been involved in keeping the residents updated, newcomers like Karen Jeske said that We didn't know about the problem when we moved to Gilsons Road. We've learned most things via the press.
A neighbor, Janelle Laing agrees. She says the government bodies do not seem to provide them with any answers. They've made no inquiries into our health. We're finding it difficult to get any help from anywhere, says concerned Laing as she and her husband are expecting a visit from their 8-month pregnant daughter.
The owner of the local hatchery, Gwen Gilson is enraged with the lack of action on local complaints made about a number of human health troubles, following more than a year after media stories of double-headed fish embryo were published. These health issues include, gastrointestinal and bladder problems, skin disorders, migraine and even suspected cancers.
Queensland Health has been repeatedly asked to assess the health risk that the residents face. Bruce Armstrong, cancer epidemiologist of the University of Sydney acknowledges their concern, and says that a field officer should have been sent to investigate and assess the risks of residents staying near the hatchery.
The findings of the investigation led by a 21-member taskforce of government, industry and two independent scientists, following the reports made January last year of the deaths, abnormalities and deformities at Gilson's hatchery, were not released.
Reports by veterinarian provided to the taskforce, and obtained by Weekend Health found that the fish health problems were consistent with the exposure of the agrichemical used in the treatment of the trees.
Team member and NSW-based fish veterinarian Matt Landos' controlled trials found that the fish deformities were linked to spraying, which was consistent with the separate trial performed by Queensland officials.
Sophie Dwyer, the senior director of Queensland Health's environmental health unit, confirmed that the department has no legal or regulatory powers in this matter. She says, When assessing possible human exposures, Queensland Health...takes a supporting role in advising other agencies about action that might be warranted under their legal or regulatory power for chemical spray drift issues.
The residents claim that the agencies have not provided them with answers.
Dwyer confirms the department advised that the water is safe to drink. Since the there were too few people were potentially exposed, she claims the department is not able do carry a useful epidemiological study.
Armstrong says although there are too few residents with too many health problems to ring standard public health alarms, there is a canary and he agrees with the residents that the hatchery's fish are an aquatic canary in the coalmine. It is an unusual situation. It would justify investigation.
Landon agrees and says that flocks of canaries have dropped every year since 2005.