Australian news, and some related international items

​Calm heads and clear information needed on nuclear medicine and waste claims 

Medical Association for the Prevention of War, 5 Feb 16 Media reports today linking continued access to nuclear medicine to the development of a new national nuclear waste facility do not correctly reflect the situation or advance considered discussion of these issues, according to leading national public health group the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW).
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which runs the Lucas Heights reactor, has increased pressure on the waste dump selection process by saying it will run out of storage capacity by early 2017, and will have to stop making medical isotopes for nuclear medicine use. This statement omits many facts. 
ANSTO has quietly decided to develop a reactor based export industry for medical isotopes, to supply 30% of the world market. This plan, made with no public debate or inquiry, would very significantly increase waste from reactor use. 
In contrast, Canada had an extensive public review of its reactor production in 2009, and decided it did not wish to continue using a reactor to produce isotopes. Reasons included lack of reliable supply (reactors only operate 80% of the year, and do break down from time to time), expense to the taxpayer of the production, and the burden of nuclear waste left in Canada due to international use. 
Medical isotope production
The Canadians have developed proven methods of isotope production using cyclotrons (which does not generate reactor waste), with a successful pilot in January 2015. They are now in the process of scaling up and getting regulatory approvals for this, and look to be able to supply Canada in the next 3-5 years. 
It should be noted that using medical isotope produces extremely little waste. It is reactor production of isotopes that needs public debate and scrutiny. 
We can continue with ANSTO’s business plan, and export to supply the world market. This will leave Australia with vastly increased burden of nuclear waste from international nuclear medicine use, and is the more expensive option.
We can return to business as usual supplying Australia, which means we produce isotopes less than one day a week (not five days a week), with a subsequent major decrease in radioactive waste. This would enable all parties to plan world’s best practice storage in a rational and calm manner. We could further partner with Canada and work to develop cyclotron production of isotopes at commercial scale in Australia. 
This is cheaper and more reliable than reactor production, and does not leave communities, taxpayers and future generations with a nuclear waste burden that will last for millennia. And unlike a nuclear reactor, it poses almost no accident, proliferation or terrorist risks. We do not need to choose between access to nuclear medicine and the time and processes needed to advance responsible radioactive waste management. 

February 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, New South Wales, politics | Leave a comment

Medical isotopes: tax-payer funded ANSTO should be promoting non nuclear technology

ANSTO-draculaMedical isotope production in Australia: Should we be using reactor based or cyclotron technology? 15th January 2016  Dr Margaret Beavis MBBS FRACGP MPH Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia Health Professionals Promoting Peace

Executive summary ANSTO (the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) is currently planning to dramatically increase the use of the Lucas Heights OPAL reactor to supply a third of the world market with medical isotopes, and is constructing a new facility to be completed by the end 2016. This will result in 97% of the medical isotopes produced at Lucas Heights being sold on the export market, with 3% for Australian use.
1 Australia would be better served in the future by following the Canadian example and using cyclotrons to produce medical isotopes.
Recent advances create a choice as to whether we continue reactor manufacture, or develop cyclotron capacity in Australia.
Reactor production of isotopes has been shown to be unreliable with at times worldwide shortages of supply, due to unplanned outages. Cyclotron use would be more reliable, decentralised and both cheaper and cleaner.
Reactor isotope production and sale can only occur with significant subisidies from government. Canada, who supplies over 30 % of the world market, is phasing out reactor isotope production due to concerns about reliability, cost, radioactive waste accumulation and other issues.
Reactor use generates a significant long-lived Intermediate Level Waste waste burden which must be safeguarded for tens of thousands of years.
Provision of subsidised reactor based isotopes internationally is likely to slow the uptake of cyclotron technology in many countries.
In contrast, cylotron technology is cheaper, less prone to shortages of supply, and does not produce any long lived nuclear waste, and will be commercially feasible in the near future.
 ANSTO is a tax payer funded organisation. It should be leading the debate on this issue, and providing accurate and up to date information.
 The current proposal from ANSTO to markedly increase reactor isotope production should be subject to extensive public consultation, given it will have repercussions that include the need for major subsidies, less reliability of supply for nuclear medical care and result in the production of waste that will impact on future generations for millennia. …………

Continue reading

January 22, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, politics | Leave a comment

Highly misleading to say that Lucas Heights nuclear reactor is mainly for medical uses

nuclear-medicineit would be highly misleading to attribute this predominantly to medical isotope production given the broad range of uses of the HIFAR and MOATA reactors over the last 60 years.
Radioactive waste in Australia, Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) 18 Jan 16   “……..How much medical Lucas-wasteswaste will be deposited in the repository? Less than 1% is medical waste (leftover radium and some disused sources). Most states and territories each only have a few cubic metres of low level medical waste.
 There are broadly two areas in which radioactive material is used for medical purposes:
Nuclear scans for investigating disease. These produce the vast bulk of medical nuclear waste. This is short-lived and decays on the medical facilities’ premises until its activity is negligible. It then is disposed of safely and appropriately in the usual manner of most waste (sewers, incineration, landfill tips etc.) according to set standards.
Cancer treatment radiotherapy. Most radiotherapy uses X-rays or electromagnetic radiation which do not produce any waste at all. A very small proportion of cancer treatment actually relies on radioactive materials, which almost all decay rapidly. Longer lived sources must be returned to their (overseas) sources when used up and so do not need local disposal. The provision of nuclear medicine services does not depend on a permanent waste repository.
What about the radioactive waste derived from the production of medical isotopes at Lucas Heights?
 • Firstly, most countries import their medical isotopes and clearly do not store the waste involved in its production. Medical isotope supply is a globalised industry with five reactors supplying over 95% of the world’s supply. Australia’s domestic production of medical isotopes is a policy choice not a medical necessity.
 • Secondly, Canada (the world’s biggest supplier) is switching to non-reactor isotope production, which does not create radioactive waste. This will significantly reduce Canada’s accumulation of waste. In contrast, ANSTO is proposing to dramatically increase reactor isotope production to sell to 30% of the world market. As a result Australia will accumulate much more waste from international isotope sales. Developing cyclotrons instead (like Canada) would eliminate radioactive waste from isotope production. • Thirdly, as outlined above, the majority of waste requiring long term disposal is not medically related at all. ANSTO emphasizes “only 40% of low level radioactive waste” arises from its activities. But ANSTO does not just make medical isotopes; it also produces isotopes for industrial research activities , manufacture of semiconductors and analysis of minerals and samples2 . The contribution to waste production of medical radiopharmaceuticals has been overstated.
Although 61% of Intermediate level waste is ANSTO related, this is only 5.8% of the total waste for the repository. Furthermore, this does not include the returning reprocessed spent fuel, since ANSTO does not classify spent fuel waste. And again it would be highly misleading to attribute this predominantly to medical isotope production given the broad range of uses of the HIFAR and MOATA reactors over the last 60 years………

January 18, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, New South Wales, reference, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Wester Australia finally bans solarium tanning beds

Total eclipse for tanning beds, The West Australian, Cathy O’Leary December 31, 2015, Hundreds of young WA women are likely to avoid disfiguring and potentially deadly skin cancers because of a ban on tanning beds that starts tomorrow.

Regulations to ban commercial sun beds make WA the last State to outlaw the machines.

Cancer Council WA director of education and research Terry Slevin said the ban came 12 months after laws took effect in the rest of the country.

He said that before regulations started in Australia it was estimated that sun beds caused almost 3000 skin cancers a year, including 281 melanomas, and were responsible for 43 melanoma-related deaths.

A recent study predicted one in six melanomas in Australians aged 18 to 29 could be prevented if solarium operators were shut down.

Mr Slevin said the machines were mostly used by people under the age of 24, often young women.

They exposed skin to ultra-violet radiation five to six times more intense than the midday summer sun……

January 6, 2016 Posted by | health, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Cancer Council’s warning on sunburn

UV-radiationThe Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists are joining forces this week during the National Skin Cancer Action Week    to remind Australians that damage from UV radiation adds up whether by accident or attempts to have a tan and increases the risk of skin damage and cancer

Australians’ risk for cancer-causing sunburn higher at home than the beach, study finds, IBT, By  on November 16 2015 Half of weekend sunburns occur while Australians are going about their day-to-day activities at home, a new study suggests.

According to Cancer Council’s National Survey, one in two adult sunburn cases occurs during daily activities such as gardening and chores around the house, along with passive recreation activities such as reading, enjoying a picnic in the park or having a barbecue. Continue reading

November 18, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Nuclear Medicine – the Fig Leaf on the Nuclear industry

Lucas-wastes Medical radioactive wastes — the nuclear industry fig leaf, Independent Australia, 17 Nov 15  With modern developments in the non-nuclear production of medical isotopes, perhaps it’s also time to shut down the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor and stop producing dangerous radioactive trash, writes Noel Wauchope.

Watching the Australian media last week, you would be sure that the government’s hunt for a nuclear waste disposal site was solely to do with medical wastes. Rarely do they mention the real impetus for this hasty search, which is Australia’s current obligation to take back processed nuclear wastes from France. Later, we will have to receive similar wastes returning from UK. …..


the vast majority of medical radioisotopes have very short half-lives, so there’s no need for them to be moved beyond the site of use…. The real problem is the returning intermediate level wastes from Australia’s used nuclear fuel rods reprocessed overseas….

it must be acknowledged that the medical radioisotopes produced at Lucas Heights do have their valuable uses in diagnostics and in the treatment of cancers.

However, it also must be recognised that all these radioisotopes can be produced without use of a nuclear reactor. This is happening increasingly and, rather like the distributed renewable energy boom, the world could be on the brink of a distributed medical radioisotope boom.  Continue reading

November 16, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, New South Wales, politics | Leave a comment

Don’t forget the damage from UV radiation, even on cool days

UV-radiationThe damages of UV radiation are a daily risk even when you can’t feel the heat of the sun, News Local, Sydney  September 12, 2015 IT seems logical to assume that the red hot sunburn we get comes from standing under the hot sun we feel, but it is not quite correct.. Sun damage is a reality that Australians face every day of the year, regardless of how hot the temperature is or how cloudy the sky…….

 associate Professor Pablo Fernández-Peñas, who sees the detrimental effects of too much sun exposure.

“We can’t feel UV light and the heat sensation is not related to the amount of UV light,” he said.

“In winter, as days are cooler, people tend to stay longer outdoors.” A 2014 Australian study, ­“The influence of age and gender in knowledge, behaviours and attitudes towards sun protection”, found the use of sunscreen dropped to between 24 and 49 per cent outside summer.

“When you are just walking from your house to the car or dropping the kids to school, that sun exposure accumulates in the future,” Prof Fernández-Peñas said.

“Australia has the highest mortality of skin cancer in the world.”……..HEALTH EFFECTS OF UV RADIATION

■ Sunburn: can cause permanent and irreversible skin damage that can lay the groundwork for skin cancer

■ Eye damage: photoconjunctivitis, also known as snow blindness or welders flash, and skin cancer of the conjunctiva and skin surrounding the eye

■ Premature ageing: such as skin wrinkling, sagging, blotchiness and roughness …….

September 16, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Wind inquiry: Australia’s pro-nuclear Senate trio downgrades nation’s peak medical research body

The Committee also cast doubt on the reliability of National Health and Medical Research Council investigations of the issue, after the nation’s peak research body reported a lack of evidence to support claims of the harmful effects of wind turbines.

It proposed the IESC take the lead on conducting research on the issue, dismissing the NHMRC’s efforts in the area as “manifestly inadequate”.

But in a dissenting report, Labor Senator Anne Urquhart shredded the credibility of Sarah Laurie, who the majority senators relied heavily upon for evidence of the adverse health effects of wind farms, as an authority on the issue.

SenatorsSenators want federal health body sidelined on wind turbine investigations, REneweconomy,  By  on 4 August 2015 Australian Medicine The Federal Government has been urged to sideline the nation’s peak medical research body and set up a stand-alone scientific committee to investigate the health effects of wind farm noise.

The Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines, chaired by Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan, has recommended the establishment of an Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) on Industrial Sound to research the health effects of wind turbines “and any other industrial projects which emit sound and vibration energy” and develop a national noise standard for wind farms.

The IESC, which along with a National Wind Farm Ombudsman, would be paid for through a levy on wind farm operators, would provide advice to State governments on the health effects of any proposed or existing wind farm, and the Senate committee called for states that did not accept expert advice or adopt the national noise standard to be overruled by the Commonwealth.

The recommendations are in keeping with Government hostility to the wind power industry. Continue reading

August 5, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, politics, wind | Leave a comment

New website advises on protection from UV rays

UV-radiationSlip, Slop, Slap 2.0: New website tells Australians how much sun protection they need A new index measuring ultraviolet rays will give sun-lovers Australia-wide a new way to figure out how much protection they need outside.

Exposure to sunlight is a balancing act, with too much UV radiation raising the risk of melanoma and premature ageing. However, sunlight also boosts vitamin D production, which is vital for the health of bones, boosting the immune system, and balancing mood.

 The new index can be found on the MyUV website or through the SunSmart app, and also provides daily forecasts. The developers of the website said sun protection is not recommended when the index is below three.

The UV index is not dependent on temperature, reaching 1.8 by 10am in Sydney today, peaking at three at noon, before dipping to 1.8 at 2pm.

In Australia’s southern states, the midday sun is mild enough to usually render protection unnecessary. However, in summer, a few minutes of exposure to mid-morning or late afternoon sun should produce enough vitamin D. It is also recommended to expose larger areas of skin in short bursts to avoid vitamin D saturation.

August 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

An international Treaty that has saved lives – the Montreal Protocol

highly-recommendedOzone treaty ‘prevented skin cancer deaths’ Anna Salleh
The ozone hole over the Antarctic would have been 40 per cent bigger in 2013 if the Montreal Protocol hadn’t curbed the production of CFCs, according to a new study.

In this scenario, Australia and New Zealand would have experienced greater UV radiation, which in turn would have increased the rate of skin cancer, say the authors of a new paper today in Nature Communications.

The paper also shows that, by 2011, ozone depletion would have become a northern hemisphere problem too.

“There would have been an Antarctic-like ozone hole in the Arctic over populated regions,” says co-author Dr Richard McKenzie, an atmospheric physicist at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand.

In the mid-1980s scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, and in 1987 the world agreed to the Montreal Protocol, which limited the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Despite this, the concentration of CFCs continued to rise until 1993, and even today the ozone hole reappears each spring, and this contributes to an increase in cancer-causing UV radiation in Australia and New Zealand.

But without the Montreal Protocol it could have been so much worse, say the researchers. Continue reading

May 30, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Electromagnetic radiation as a cause of brain cancer

Australian Researcher: Phone Radiation is a Hotline to Brain Cancer, Sputnik News,   12.05.2015  A highly respected Australian doctor, currently in remission from brain cancer, is speaking out on his belief that radiation from wifi, cell phones and their towers is a major factor in increasing brain cancer rates.

radiation spectrum

 Dr. John Tickell is attempting to raise awareness and is calling for more funding for brain cancer research, as it has become the number one most deadly cancer for young people in Australia.  According to the Australian government, there are 35 new cases of the cancer discovered each week with four out of five cases being fatal in the first five years………..

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association is denying any detrimental health effects from their radiation, but the World Health Organization has recently upgraded the radiation threat to category B2, meaning “possibly carcinogenic.”

“You can say you can’t prove it — in my mind it is proven looking at the studies that are unfunded by industry,” he said.

The largest study to take place so far was conducted among 5000 cancer patients.  The study found that there was no increased risk of overall cancer, but cellphone use was linked to patients having a 40% increased likeliness of developing Glioma, a common type of brain cancer.

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association is denying any detrimental health effects from their radiation, but the World Health Organization has recently upgraded the radiation threat to category B2, meaning “possibly carcinogenic.”

“You can say you can’t prove it — in my mind it is proven looking at the studies that are unfunded by industry,” he said.

The largest study to take place so far was conducted among 5000 cancer patients.  The study found that there was no increased risk of overall cancer, but cellphone use was linked to patients having a 40% increased likeliness of developing Glioma, a common type of brain cancer.

May 13, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Medical warning on radiation risks in unnecessary CT scans

CT-scanLess is the new more: choosing medical tests and treatments wisely The Conversation,  A/Prof Clinical Epidemiology, Bond University; NHMRC Research Fellow at The University of Queensland Chris Del Mar Professor of Public Health at Bond University
29 April 2015  “……Not so long ago, getting an x-ray for acute back pain was the norm. Although it’s now known that they don’t help most cases, they are still used far more frequently than is necessary.

Acute non-specific low back pain is a very common problem that, most of the time, gets better without any treatment. We are not sure anything, except staying active, helps it resolve faster.

X-rays are only helpful to diagnose the rare causes of acute back pain such as cancer (spread from some other origin), infection (very rare nowadays), osteoporotic fractures in elderly folk, or exceptional narrowing of the spinal canal. Most of these have some clinical indications that doctors look out for.

X-rays not only have little to contribute, they have downsides too.

First, they detect problems that may not be relevant (such as disc-space narrowing) and can lead to more investigations, such as computed tomography (CT) scans. Rarely does anything detected from the x-rays or the further investigations contribute to the better management of the condition and resolve a person’s back pain faster.

Second, x-rays themselves are directly harmful: accumulated doses of radiation increase the risk of cancer. While the doses are very small for plain x-rays, they are much higher for CT scans…….

One move comes from government. Last week federal Health Minister Sussan Ley ordered a review of Medicare item numbers to prune away activities funded from the public purse that are useless.

Another initiative, launching in Australia this week, comes from the clinical professions themselves: the Choosing Wisely campaign. It aims to encourage a conversation between clinicians and patients about tests, treatments and procedures that may provide little or no value, and which may cause harm.

The Choosing Wisely campaign first launched in America in 2012 as collaboration between the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, Consumer Reports and nine medical speciality societies. Each society developed a list of five treatments, tests or services that were commonly provided but whose necessity should be questioned and discussed.

The campaign has expanded, with 70 societies now participating. Thirteen countries have adapted and implemented Choosing Wisely…….

These lists are not just for clinicians. As we recently wrote on The Conversation, our research showed most people overestimate the benefits and underestimate the harms of tests, screens and treatments.

These unrealistic and overly optimistic expectations often result in patients asking clinicians for tests and treatments. Some of these are unnecessary and will provide little, if any, benefit and may cause harm………

May 2, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Choosing Wisely campaign warns on unnecessary radiation medical procedures

CT-scanUnnecessary tests: Choosing Wisely campaign targets brain scans, food allergy tests SMH, April 29, 2015   Harriet Alexander  Common medical procedures including brain scans, food allergy tests and long-term reflux medication are unnecessary and possibly harmful for many patients and should be radically reduced, doctors have warned.

Five of the peak specialty medical groups has identified 24 tests and treatments that physicians and patients should question in a national campaign that aims to influence treatment standards in hospitals and medical practices across Australia.

Each college or association has listed five examples, including tests that lead to false positives or expose patients to radiation without generating a useful diagnosis and treatments that new research has proved ineffective…….

The Australian College of Emergency Medicine’s immediate past president Sally McCarthy said 40 to 60 per cent of diagnostic tests were of little or no benefit to patients.

“It’s phenomenal, so it’s in everyone’s interests to not waste resources by diverting them to stuff that doesn’t need to be done,” Dr McCarthy said.

Most of the tests and treatments identified by the colleges were known to be ineffective, but junior doctors and nurses could be more prone to ordering unnecessary tests because they did not want to miss anything, she said……..

The Choosing Wisely campaign, co-ordinated by the not-for-profit organisation NPS MedicineWise, has been modelled on an initiative of the same name launched in the United States in 2012 and has since been adopted in Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany.

NPS MedicineWise chief executive Lynn Weekes said few items on the list would be controversial among clinicians, but many recommended them anyway.

The aim of the campaign was to start a conversation.

“But doctors are careful, they’re worried that they’re going to be sued, they do practise a bit of defence medicine,” Dr Weekes said.

“It may be the system is putting pressures on them in terms of the way the hospital works that just makes this the easier route. So it’s a combination of factors.”………

April 30, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Dangers of UV radiation from backyard solariums

Backyard solariums creating a dangerous market, The Saturday Paper, MAX OPRAY FEB 28, 2015

A recent ban on commercial solariums has seen many turning to backyard operations, ignoring the cancer risk. “……On January 1 commercial solariums were banned in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, after a raft of studies confirmed indoor tanning was a particularly carcinogenic way to pass the time. According to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, sunbeds are responsible for an average of 43 melanoma-related deaths and 2572 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma every year in Australia.

Commercial use of these machines was banned, yet home use was left legal………

The Cancer Council strongly backs the ban, and in its position statement on solarium use cites a study published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2011 that, according to the council, found one in six melanomas in Australians aged 18-29 years “would be prevented if solariums were shut down”……. regular solarium users appeared six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma before the age of 30, and that 16 per cent of melanoma cases of those aged 18-29 would be prevented by avoiding sunbed exposure. …..

February 28, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Is classroom exposure to electromagnetic radiation a danger to kids?

Something in the air By:   Elissa Lawrence Feb 15 Courier Mail

IT MAY be invisible but it’s everywhere — in our homes, parks, workplaces, shopping centres, hotels and schools.

radiation spectrum

Wi-fi has become a way of life — accepted, convenient and fundamental to how we live.

A type of electromagnetic radiation — the same as emitted from mobile phones — wi-fi, shorthand for “wireless fidelity”, is a means for computers, smart phones and other devices to wirelessly connect to the internet or communicate with each other. Data is transferred via radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) instead of through wires. Wi-fi has the same frequency and wavelength as the microwaves used in ovens, but is not contained within a closed unit, routers are usually permanently switched on, and they have a range of 30 metres or more.

The technology, which took hold in the early 2000s, is now widely seen as integral to education. All Queensland state schools have wi-fi access and there is a widespread rollout across schools of Bring Your Own Device schemes, starting in many primary schools from grade four.

But a growing body of researchers, educators and parents is concerned about the future effects of exposing children to long hours of wi-fi. In 2011, RF-EMF were classified by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a 2B carcinogen, or “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, Continue reading

February 25, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment


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