Asbestos dump concerns

Alarmed: Ruth Sevil said the painted pieces of asbestos dumped in her front yard may be from a child’s cubbyhouse. Picture: Jonathan CarrollRUTH Sevil fears her whole street is at risk of asbestos contamination, after the toxic material was moved several times between her neighbours’ propertiesand dumped in her front yard.

Mrs Sevil said she contacted Lake Macquarie City Council on April 8 to ask how andwhen the broken pieces ofolder-style asbestos sheeting outside her Arcadia Vale property would be removed, but is yet to receive a confirmed pick-up date.

“I have two children and I’m concerned the street is now contaminated,” Mrs Sevil said.“It only takes one fibre to get into someone’s lungs.”

Mrs Sevil said other residentsin the street sometimesleftitems for waste pick up outside her next door neighbour’s house.

Shealleged unknown personsleft a number of items,including the asbestos, outside herneighbour’s house about three weeks ago.

The councilpicked up all of the items,except for the asbestos.

Its promotional material about its bulk waste collection specifies thatasbestos and fibro sheeting is “unacceptable” for collection. It requires residents who want to dispose asbestos to register the waste online with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA)and provide 24 hours notice to theAwaba Waste Management Facility.

Mrs Sevil returned from work on April 7 to find theasbestos had been moved to outside her home.

“I don’t get involved with what my neighbours do and so rang the council on Friday,” she said.

“They said not to touch it and that someone would be out to remove it.

“But they should have picked it up by now –they can’t say they did not know it was asbestos weeks ago.”

The council declined to comment on how and when the asbestos would be removed.

“Council is still investigating who was responsible for dumping the material and the exact nature of it.”

An EPA spokesperson said it had not been aware of the situation.

“The EPA understands that the Regional Illegal Dumping Squad (through Lake Macquarie City Council) is aware and is dealing with the possibility of asbestos in this situation.”

Parkinson’s disease cluster has pulses racing

CONCERN: Barry Clugston, on a property just outside of Stawell, lives with Parkinson’s disease. A new study shows a spike in people developing Parkinson’s disease in particular agricultural areas in regional Victoria. Picture: SIMON O’DWYERA cluster of Parkinson’s disease has been discovered in a key Victorian barley, chick pea and lentil farming region where researchers sayits prevalenceis up to 78 per cent higher than the rest of the state.

The discoveryby a team of health researchers and scientistshas sparked calls for urgent research into links withpesticides and other farming techniques used in the Grampiansand Loddon Mallee regions.

The abnormally high rates werefound in four neighbouring local government areas in the north west thatall produce barley and pulses (chickpeas, beans and lentils), by a joint Monash University and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health study.

Theyreportthe rate of Parkinson’s was78 per cent higher than the state average of .5 per cent in theBulokeShire, 76 per cent higherinHorsham, 57 per cent higher in theNorthern Grampians and 34 per cent higher inYarriambiack.

The research, expected to be published in late 2016, was funded by Parkinson’s Victoria and lead by a husband and wife duo:health services researcherDrDarshiniAytonandneuroscientistDr ScottAyton.

Their work with Dr Narelle Warrenbuilds on international studies that have alreadyfound strong links between the pesticides Rotenone andParaquat,and Parkinson’s disease.

Although people living in the identified areas are more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those in other areas, the prevalence of the condition is still only about 1 per cent of the population in those communities and researchers sayis not cause for panic.

The idea for a geographical study was conceived when DrDarshiniAytoncame home one night to tell her husband all these people from farming areas she’d interviewed blamed pesticides for their Parkinson’s disease.

“Because he’s a laboratory scientist, he said they use pesticides in high doses to induce Parkinson’s disease in a laboratory,” she said. “That’s when we started working together on the project.”

Hoping to determine whether there wasa greater likelihood of developing Parkinson’sinthecountry than the city (there’s not), theyoverlayeddata from the pharmaceutical benefits scheme with ABS dataand discovered something else entirely: a cluster.

“We were shocked…It is a surprise but we’re really now looking for the answers to it,”DrDarshiniAytonsaid.”This research by no means says that pesticides caused Parkinson’s disease here but we need to do further research to find out what actually happened in these four areas.”

Theiranalysiswas done using percentages, rather than raw numbers, to account for differences in population size andage.

BarryClugston, 69, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about eight years ago, lives in the NorthernGrampiansand has spent most of his life in farming regions.

He believes it’s possible that chemicals used in pulse farming could be linked to his disease but wants to see proof. “There’s a lot of discussion in the community about these things and yet nobody can prove it,” he said.

“The area that’s been detected is a key broad acre cereal growing area of Victoria so it would be a high concentration of chemicals being used there.

“Ifchemicals are one of the causes for Parkinson’s I’d be really keen to have some scientific basis.”

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that affects about 27,000 people in Victoria and70,000 nationally, which Parkinson’s Victoria chair, Associate ProfessorDavidFinkelstein, said is expected todouble over the next 15 years.

Associate ProfessorFinkelsteinsaid there was agrowing internationalbody of research pointing to a link between pesticides and Parkinson’s, but”no smoking gun”. “All these little bits of evidence are coming together to point to pesticides,” he said.

“We compare what we found with what’s been found overseas, different research teams using different research methods, are finding the same thing.”

A cool city that just isn’t so hot anymore

They’re killing the cool, man, he said to me.

I am in San Francisco and I’ve just had a day out.

San Francisco is delightful. The city is built in and around a large bay. The downtown spreads across the southern isthmus of two that enclose the harbour. To enter the harbour, you sail under the Golden Gate Bridge (if you come by boat).

Beyond the harbour is the mighty Pacific Ocean. Cities by its edges are grander. This is a well-known geographic fact.

San Francisco is hilly too, so you are always catching views of sparkling waters in both directions, and of neighbourhoods perched along ridges and then down in valleys. The landscape breaks the city into communities, not by class or ethnicity in the first instance but by simple geography.

My outing started on Market Street, in the centre of expensive boutiques and the stunning old girl, Bloomingdale’s, the upscale department store.

Right in front of where I was walking, a homeless man dropped his trousers, squatted and started defecating onto the pavement. My breakfast barely held.

I walked on to Second Street to Alexander’s for a book I hoped would frame my day: Joan Didion’s essays Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Didion is a famous US writer. In the sixties she wrote newspaper columns recording what was happening in a nation gripped by Vietnam War protests, struggles for race and gender equality, and widespread disaffection with where America was headed.

The essay I wanted to read was about Haight-Ashbury, the community high on the ridge of the southern isthmus where hippies came from all across the US in the mid-1960s, and San Francisco became known as the coolest place on earth.

My cab ride to The District, as Didion calls it, took 20 minutes. The driver was twitchy. And he sniffed, a lot. His cab wandered across the tram tracks like an old Holden with too much weight in the boot. He said he’d played in bands in San Francisco for four decades – and in studios all around here as he stretched both arms from the wheel and waved them every which way.

But now these tech heads have moved in, he said. They’re killing the cool.

I sat in Golden Gate Park, where Didion did a lot of her observing, and ate a BLT sandwich and drank designer lemon squash and read the essay.

It is a sad piece. Didion describes heavy drug taking in the so-called Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967. There are directionless teenagers, neglected children and overly-ambitious and exploitative radical movements. And the main participants, says Didion, are young middle class drop-outs with a cash lifeline to parents back east; not so much refugees from society as children who do not quite understand it.

Today’s Haight-Ashbury exploits the myths about those days. Shop after shop sells tie-dyed T-shirts and kaftans, funky beads, and flowers for your hair. These are the images we saw from Australia nearly five decades ago.

I walk two blocks from Haight-Ashbury and see gentrified Victorian triple-storey wood and shingle houses. A real estate agency lists them at over US$3 million. Rich techies and geeks (although I think these are the same people) and their venture capital (VC) backers are the buyers.

And they are probably upset when tourists like me walk down their streets looking for the cool.

Phillip O’Neill is a professorial research fellow at the University of Western Sydney

Cut the crap and join the movement

Bummed Out: Striped red and white “bum shorts” raise awareness of bowel cancer.

Humour is the best medicine, it is said.

Another famous saying goes: “The most wasted of all days are ones without laughter”.

What we’re saying is, there’s a place for humour even amid life’s serious and sad topics.Bowel cancer is one of those topics.

Bowel Cancer Australia, like any advocacy organisation, works hard to communicate messages about the disease.

This includes the fact that the federal government sends a free test to people aged over 50 to screen for bowel cancer.

Of those in the Hunter that receive the free test, only 32 per cent do it. The rest throw it out.

Not everyone receives the test, but it can be bought for about $40 at pharmacies and obtained from some GPs through bulk billing. So there’s no excuse for people not to do it.

Bowel Cancer Australia recommends that people aged over 50 do the test every one to two years.

It’s literally a matter of life and death.

One of the reasons people appear reluctant to take the test is because it involves taking a stool sample and sending it through the post.

A clever colleague of ours had a marketing suggestion for Bowel Cancer Australia to tackle this barrier.

The slogan went like this: “Sendyour shit to the government to show how you feel about their policies”.

We put this to Bowel Cancer Australia chief executive Julien Wiggins.While Julien said bowel cancer was a serious subject, he agreed that “humour can play a role”.

“With humour, we can break the ice and have a conversation,” he said.

“I’m always open for any inventive campaign.”

We believe him, given his organisation has a campaign called “Join the Bowel Movement”.

They also use striped redand white“bum shorts” to promote the cause, with the Bowel Cancer Australia logo on the right cheek.

Other suggested campaigns were “Get Shit Done” and “Cut the Crap”, although we’re not sure whether the organisation will take theseup.

“If any reader has ideas, they’re more than welcome to send them,” Julien said.

“It’s only through creative advertising and imagination that we can come up with a really good campaign.”

Choccy MilkAs A-League fans would know, the Newcastle Jets thumped Central Coast Mariners 4-2 at Gosford at the weekend.

The first goal came after only 37 seconds when Mariners goalkeeper Paul Izzo rushed out of his box and collided with a Jets player, knocking himself out in the process.

A Topics spy said a Mariners fan could be overheard saying it was “the dumbest goal of the year”.

Jets fans responded to the goal with the gracious taunt of “you’re so shit it’s unbelievable”.

Topics can also report that much-maligned Mariners coach Tony Walmsley was spotted at the game sucking chocolate milk out of a straw from a popper-type drink container.

Our spy said a Mariners fan yelled: “How will your players respect you Tony, when you’re drinking choccy milk from a straw!”.

In all fairness to Tony, we suspect it may have been a protein shake. Nevertheless, Topics suggests that next time he should seriously consider smashing a Moove or downing a Solo to earn the fans’ respect.

A Great DebateTopics reported last Thursday about the “legendary Godfrey Tanner”.

A Peter Lewis cartoon of the late Professor Godfrey Tanner.

Godfrey was considered one of three academics who brought the great University of Newcastle into existence.

He also had a bar named in his honour at the university’s Callaghan campus.Topics was reliably informed that quite a few students recall drinking with him at the bar.

Which brings us tothis year’s “Godfrey Tanner Great Debate”, which will be held at 6pm on Tuesday at… where else but the Godfrey Tanner Bar.

The comedy-style debate pits a team of students against a team of academics in “a battle of wits”.

The debate could become a tad feisty. The topic is: “the role of a university should be to conduct research as opposed to teaching and learning”.

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The cost of the Hunter Wetlands’ fox invasionphotos, poll

DEFENCELESS: A fox mauls an egret at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, the latest in a series of killings in the wetlands. Picture: Mary-Anne Addington.AS Mary-Anne Addington snappedphotos of water birds foragingin the Hunter Wetlands Centre, a killing shattered the peace.

Ms Addington, from Sydney, was touringthe wetlands last week when a mangyfox ambushed anegretin the scrub.

It mauled its prey andsnatched another birdfrom theair.

As the fox feastedin a flurry of feathers,Ms Addington’s camera clicked.

“I was rooted to the spot,” she said.

“It dropped that bird, another white egret flew along and it just grabbed it. It was surprising to see a fox in broad daylight, just killing birds.”

Ms Addington’s picturesconfirmthe fears of the wetlandscentre’s chief executive Stuart Blanch, who wagesa daily war on the foxes on behalf of thebirds and smalleranimals they kill.

Mr Blanchhas successfully applied toHunter Local Land Servicesfor permissionto use1080 poison bait, shoot and trap the foxes thatstalkthe 43 hectares of the conservation land.

The centre’s most recent baiting permit expired at the end of March, anda fox cub died fromeating a poisonpellet last Tuesday.

Mr Blanch said he hoped to start another baiting campaign in July.

The cost of the Hunter Wetlands’ fox invasion | photos, poll Hunter Wetlands chief executive Stuart Blanch, with a fox cub killed by poison bait.

DEFENCELESS: A fox mauls an egret at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, the latest in a series of killings in the wetlands. Picture: Mary-Anne Addington.

DEFENCELESS: A fox mauls an egret at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, the latest in a series of killings in the wetlands. Picture: Mary-Anne Addington.

DEFENCELESS: A fox mauls an egret at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, the latest in a series of killings in the wetlands. Picture: Mary-Anne Addington.

DEFENCELESS: A fox mauls an egret at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, the latest in a series of killings in the wetlands. Picture: Mary-Anne Addington.

DEFENCELESS: A fox mauls an egret at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, the latest in a series of killings in the wetlands. Picture: Mary-Anne Addington.

DEFENCELESS: A fox mauls an egret at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, the latest in a series of killings in the wetlands. Picture: Mary-Anne Addington.

TweetFacebookButconservationeffortsare thwarted by thefoxes’ ability todig under the perimeter and push their lithe bodiesthrough thelinks.

Staff findtufts of fur in the fence and some foxes, Mr Blanch believes, swim acrossIronbark Creek.

Red foxes were introduced to Australiaas hunting quarry, and now number an estimatedsix million.