Swven staff at RMIT University in Melbourne, working just meters below two mobile phone towers in a CBD building has been diagnosed with brain tumors. //
Following the report of these cases the university has evacuated the two top floors of its building and plans to begin immediate health and safety testing.
The seven business faculty staff used to work on the top two floors of the Bourke St building and have developed tumors over the past seven years.
Two of these cases have been diagnosed to be cancerous whereas the remaining five are benign brain tumors.
The first tumor was reported in 1999 and then another in 2001. A third was reported on April 11 this year.
Over the past week four staff that had been earlier diagnosed with brain tumors but did not reveal it publicly, have come forward.
Six of these seven affected staff has worked at the Tivoli building for at least a decade, and five have worked on the top level of the building.
Five of the affected RMIT employees are academic staff and two are administrative workers.
There are two mobile phone base stations that are owned by Telstra on top of the 17-storey building that are used to route mobile phone calls.
A Telstra spokeswoman claimed that the company's equipment complied with strict health and safety standards, and was regularly tested.
In 2001 RMIT had carried out environmental testing into radio frequency and air quality after the report of the first two cases.
But the tests showed the levels were safe.
RMIT vice-president resources and chief operating officer Steve Somogyi said, ’we have in the last week, appointed a number of experts to redo those studies and do some further environmental studies.’
"We've appointed a radio-frequency radiation expert to do a more comprehensive study, we've appointed water and air-quality experts to do environmental studies for us and we've a
ppointed an epidemiologist to look into the connection between the cases."
Although preliminary reports from the epidemiologist demonstrated no link, the university plans to await the final assessments before moving staff back to the top floors of the Bourke St building.
Staff has been informed of the illnesses and investigations and has been given the option of working from home or other offices.
According to National Tertiary Education Union state secretary Matthew McGowan the university had failed to keep monitoring safety levels after the initial tests in 2001.
Mr McGowan said, ‘This would appear to be much more than coincidence, and RMIT has a responsibility to leave no stone unturned in seeking the cause. No one should return to working on those floors until the university is absolutely certain that it is safe.’
An information phone line has been set up for concerned students and families and will be staffed from 8.30am to 6pm. The number is 1800 155 945.
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