Health study has potential to expand scope

One of the lead researchers for the long-term study into health effects of the Hazelwood Mine Fire has responded to community concerns about the study’s exclusion of non-Morwell residents.

Professor Judi Walker said while the scope of the study had largely been set, “it would be possible to include other groups” such as police and firefighters who were stationed in Morwell during the fire.

However, Professor Walker said further funding would be required to include this group.

“From a scientific point of view, it would be of interest to involve the emergency responders, particularly in the respiratory and cardiac parts of the study,” Professor Walker said.

“If they were included, it would be possible to find a comparison group by recruiting firefighters and police who were not deployed to the fire.”

A large aspect of the overall study – a survey of adults, along with respiratory and cardiovascular studies – currently exclude non-Morwell residents from participating.

Last week, the Morwell and Districts Community Recovery Committee expressed its disappointment non-Morwell residents could not take part, particularly those whose services were required in Morwell as a result of the fire.

Ms Walker highlighted that some elements of the overall study would include participation by the entire Latrobe Valley, including the early life follow-up and the schools study.

Professor Walker said the community wellbeing study would cover an even larger area.

She said air pollution modelling provided by the CSIRO showed Morwell was the town most exposed to fine particulate matter during the fire.