Aluminium workers exposed to health risk

Issue 

BY ROWAN STEWART

GEELONG — On June 28, 600 Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Electrical Trades Union and Australian Workers Union members and contractors from the joint Alcoa and Kaal aluminium smelter and rolling operations at Point Henry in Geelong met at Geelong West Town Hall.

The main agenda item was the alarming results from a health study conducted by Healthwise of Monash University and the University of Western Australia. While the results are just preliminary, they indicate that smelter workers have a higher than normal risk of developing respiratory cancer, pleural cancer (linked with asbestos exposure) and melanomas.

The study was carried out on behalf of Alcoa during 1995-96, examining Alcoa workers in order to analyse the effects that the aluminium industry has on the health of its workers. It is expected that there will be more results released later this year.

The statistics indicate that Alcoa is endangering workers at its sites in Geelong and Western Australia. It is not surprising then, that questions from the floor of the meeting to union officials were heated and frustrated. It became clear that contractors at Point Henry have limited or no health checks.

The report comes after a former employee successfully sued Alcoa. The Victorian County Court ruled that Geoffery Stevens' work as a pot room operator between 1977 and 1988 at Point Henry had increased the risk of him contracting bladder cancer.

From Green Left Weekly, July 10, 2002.
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