The submission to the Federal AMA through the Tas AMA was a briefing paper and never stated to be anything else.
It focused on cancer data and neurological cases that had been difficult to explain clinically in this area – the “soft data” was excluded as we felt it was too hard to quantify at present.

However the AMA felt our data collection and organisation, and our methodology was fatally flawed and so disregarded the cancer and neurological data.

Nevertheless, they felt that the problems identified were real and needed addressing nationally using water quality as the main thrust.

We still have not received a report on our “problematic methodology” (despite several requests) and had no calls from the Fed AMA committee to explain or discuss our concerns, including the toxicity testing. Be that as it may, there are several major concerns that are left unanswered:

* How is the average GP/doctor best alerting public health authorities to real concerns and how should these be dealt with by authorities?

It is now a year down the road since I raised issues and I feel that many have not been addressed. We still do not have the report by a toxicologist who was going to assist with some of the cases.

* Samples taken from the river just upstream of the drinking water intake pipe proved to be toxic. This is the second lot of samples that show this. What is being done to identify the toxin? Is it in the ground water? What is the relevance to human health if we do not know what the toxin is?

Do other rivers show the same problem? Is the testing for individual chemicals the best way to demonstrate that the drinking water is clean and safe to drink? How do we know what chemicals to test for if we don’t know what chemicals are in the catchment?

* What has happened to the precautionary principle? Do we just talk about it now, rather than ensure that it is part of our approach to risk?

Is the health of our communities (in it’s broadest sense) not our number one priority?

If science can direct us down an exact path and can be shown to be consistent and correct, then lead on. If there is reasonable doubt as to it’s ability to give the full story, then caution must enter.

To do otherwise is foolhardy. Remember the old maxim – “First of all, do no harm.”

Alison Bleaney OBE is an East Coast GP

Water … and chemicals