Sydneysiders consider class action over radiation poisoning

A class action against the New South Wales (NSW) government over alleged radiation poisoning is being considered by the relatives of a number of Sydney residents who died of cancer in the 1970s.

The families of some of the cancer victims, with the support of NSW liberal MP Michael Richardson, are demanding the government reveal the extent of contamination at Nelson Parade, Hunters Hill, where five residents died of radiation-related cancers.

The NSW Health Department maintains that radiation exposure levels in the street fall within the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) guidelines.

However one family in particular have linked the death of their parents in 1975 and 1976 to an unmarked radioactive waste dump next to their Nelson Parade family home.

The son and daughter of Iris and Fabian McGrath, lost their parents who were in their thirties to stomach cancer and leukaemia, within nine months of each other; there was no previous family history of cancer.

They say the deaths of their parents brought to six the number of people known to have died after living in a small group of homes along the southern waterfront side of Nelson Parade, the site of a former Uranium smelter.

Michael Richardson says three other deaths were recorded in documents held at the National Library in Canberra which were collected by former federal Labor MP Tom Uren in the 70's - the deaths were at the time attributed to the consumption of vegetables grown at numbers 7 and 9 Nelson Parade.

Richardson has condemned tests taken on the housing blocks by the Radiation Branch of the Health Department in the mid-1960s as "woefully inadequate" and says they overlooked massive amounts of radium contamination at No.7 because it was underneath the house.

He wants the extent of the contamination revealed and the government to provide free medical testing to the street's current and former residents.

Ms McGrath says legal steps may involve a class action with others; she believes the authorities should remove the waste immediately, acknowledge and apologise publicly and provide the relevant compensation.

According to the NSW Health Department, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) conducted a radiological survey on properties adjoining NSW Health land in Nelson Parade on February 20th of this year which indicated that exposure levels were within Australian Radiation Detection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARDANSA) recommendations for general public exposure.

The NSW Health Department says the results of testing at three sites had been provided to the property owners and NSW Health representatives had offered to meet and discuss the results; further testing will apparently be conducted after a remediation plan is in place.

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