Mine fire focus on babies

A team of researchers will today begin looking into the health of Latrobe Valley babies and toddlers following the Hazelwood mine fire.

The new study aims to find out whether smoke from the six-week-long blaze increased the number of common illnesses like coughs, colds, wheezing and ear infections.

Four-hundred participants are needed for the study, and the researchers are calling on families from Morwell, Moe and Traralgon to volunteer to take part.

Lead researcher Dr Fay Johnston said the study was open to youngsters who were exposed to the smoke from inside the womb, up to two years old.

“It’s open to anybody in the Valley and we also need a good number who weren’t exposed to the smoke at all,” Dr Johnston said.

“We know young children are a vulnerable group in general, but there’s not one study I’m aware of that’s looked at a short-term pollution event.”

The study is separate to the impending State Government-funded, long-term health study of the community, and is a partnership between the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Research Institute, Monash University, the University of Melbourne and Edith Cowan University.

“If there’s no increase (in illnesses) that will be really re-assuring and if there’s any differences, then we need to know,” Dr Johnston said.

“Whatever the result, it will be helpful and useful.”

Dr Johnston said as part of the study, parents would need to answer a series of questions about their child’s health and their family history.

She said children would not be required to undergo tests.

The project is funded by a grant from the Centre for Air Quality Research and Evaluation, which is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Research organisation Colmar Brunton has been commissioned to identify and recruit potential participants, who will be eligible to win one of 10 Coles/Myer $200 gift vouchers.

The details of individual participants will be kept secure and confidential and reports from the Infant Health Study will not identify people or households.

For more information about participating, phone 1800 899 829 or email Menzies.infanthealth@utas.edu.au