A spike in the number of mesothelioma cases near a disused Victorian asbestos factory has prompted the state government to roll out asbestos testing in the area.
A Victorian Cancer Registry report revealed there were 16 cases of the incurable form of cancer within a two kilometre radius of the Sunshine site for the 12-year period from 2001 to 2013.
Victoria’s acting chief health officer Michael Ackland said the report confirmed a small increase in the number of cases over what would normally be expected.
“Any case of mesothelioma is a tragedy and at this time we acknowledge the concerns many in the community may have about this issue,” Prof Ackland said.
An independent environmental hygienist, overseen by the Environment Protection Agency, will test a number of sites near the factory in Melbourne’s west for asbestos levels in roof spaces, the soil and air in living areas.
The health department will also retest 10 homes that were reported to be linked with asbestos.
The factory site’s long history of manufacturing asbestos prompted the recommendation for further testing.
Prof Ackland said the 16 cases most likely related to when the factory was operating prior to the 1980s.
“We still need to establish how many of the mesothelioma cases were former workers at the factory and whether any are community members without a direct link to the factory,” he said.
The state government will hold an open house for community members at Victoria University on Thursday.
Prof Ackland said anybody with concerns about their health should see their GP.
The EPA has advised that in the mid 1980s the site was completely capped and sealed and the buildings on the site decontaminated.
Prof Ackland said asbestos in roof spaces did not generally pose a health risk unless disturbed and inhaled.