1986: Gatton (Qld). Child illness

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When the Coles family moved to Gatton in southern Queensland, their son was a normal healthy boy. Within months, he contracted a string of minor complaints ranging from sore throats, runny eyes and headaches and stomach pains. He was hospitalised with undiagnosed symptoms five times in five months and when he developed fever was given a spinal tap for meningitis. When this proved negative, allergies were suggested as a possible source of the complaint and he was sent to a specialist in Brisbane. Upon learning that the lad came from Gatton, the specialist commented to the parents that two-thirds of his patients were from that region and then proceeded to test for a variety of suspected allergic substances. Minor allergies to pollens from grass and local trees were found but the main culprit was pesticides used in crop spraying. At first the Coles believed their son’s allergy to be an isolated event but later learnt from a teacher that most children at the school suffered similar symptoms in the spraying season, usually an hour or so after an application, when the wind conditions favoured their exposure. Gatton is the major fruit and vegetable growing region for Brisbane and has a long history of pesticide use. Adapted from Technology Report, Science Unit, ABC Radio, April 1986. p41/2 Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. Kate Short 1994.