1976 November: Cancer Deaths Followed Sprays. Organochlorines

Cancer Deaths Followed Sprays. The Sun, 19 November 1976.

A Gembrook woman noted cancer deaths and illnesses in her diary for four years after aerial spraying of the Dandenong Ranges town in 1975. Among the entries are accounts of 24 cancer deaths within 1.6 kilometres of her home, five cases of cancer with the victims in remission, including her son; short and long term illnesses in her family and the townspeople including severe rashes, nausea, headaches, nerve and muscle disorders, weakness, irritability and dizziness.

The Pesticide Handbook put out by the International Organisation of Consumer Unions lists all the above symptoms as consistent with acute and chronic poisoning from organochlorine chemicals.

The woman recalls the spraying as a fog that hung in the air and smelt like a dead animal. “Those who got sprayed blamed all the symptoms on something else, but you couldn’t escape the effects of the spray – it was in the air and water. In the end you weren’t game to go to the doctor for fear of being thought of as a hypochondriac.”

Her diary did not record incidents of suicide, heart failure, or death, aggravated asthma or marital breakdown, because she felt they may be unrelated. Now, she is not sure.