Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences - Major Projects

Industrial Cohorts

HealthWise – This comprises a series of studies of employees of Alcoa of Australia Limited, who work in bauxite mines, alumina refineries, aluminium smelters, a power station, rolling mill or a shipping terminal. The aim is to investigate links between work exposures and mortality, cancer and respiratory diseases. Over 13,000 workers from sites in 2 states have been studied for 15 years. Funding Body: Alcoa of Australia

HealthWatch – This is a prospective cohort study of about 19,000 petroleum industry employees recruited since 1981. It is investigating the relationship between cancer incidence and causes of death in the industry, and a nested cases control study has shown a link between leukaemia and benzene exposure. We are currently recruiting new participants Australia wide into a second Health Watch cohort. Funding Body: Australian Institute of Petroleum

Nested Case Control study of leukaemia and benzene – A combined study funded by CONCAWE has pooled the original and updated leukaemia cases and controls from the Australian petroleum industry cohort with those from UK and Canadian cohorts. The cases have been grouped according to new WHO disease guidelines for leukaemias and lymphomas and the data are being analysed at present. Funding Body: Conservation of Clean Air and Water in Europe (CONCAWE)

Lead Workers – This is an historical cohort study examining the relationship between cancer and mortality in workers with occupational lead exposure in approximately 8,000 workers in Australian lead-related industries. Funding Body: NHMRC

Firefighters – This is a new study under negotiation which will monitor rates of death and incidence of cancer in Australian fire fighters over time and to compare the rates with those in the general Australian community. It will also investigate the relationship between types of fire fighting and particular exposures associated with this type of work. Funding Body: Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council

Hospital-based nurses – This is the Australian arm of an international multicentre study (CUPID), being coordinated by researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK. This prospective study aims to investigate the role of workplace factors, psychological factors and health beliefs in the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders and associated disability. Funding Body: Monash University Strategic Grants Scheme

Australian Mesothelioma Registry – This Registry is collecting detailed occupational and environmental exposure information from all cases of mesothelioma diagnosed Australia-wide, focusing on asbestos exposure. Funding Body: Safe Work Australia

SABRE – This is a surveillance program, using physician notifications, which is providing the first comprehensive data on occupational respiratory disease in Victoria and Tasmania. Similar registers exist in several overseas countries, including the UK, which has been reporting similar data since 1989. Funding Body: Australian Lung Foundation

INTEROCC – This is a study of mobile phone use and occupation. It is examining the association of occupational electro magnetic field (EMF) and chemical exposures and the risk of brain tumour, notably glioma and meninglioma within the context of the recently completed international collaborative study of mobile phone use and brain tumours, the INTERPHONE Study, which collected occupational information for more than 10,000 subjects. Funding Body: International Agency for Research on Cancer

Veterans' Health

Gulf War Study – The overall purpose of this follow up study is to assess longer term health and wellbeing outcomes in the cohort of Australian veterans who served in the 1990/1991 Gulf War and a randomly sampled military comparison group who were first studied in 2001. The study includes linkage with the National Death Index and the Australian Cancer Database, a postal questionnaire focusing on longer term sequelae of multisymptom reporting and psychological conditions and analysis of stored serum samples for a marker of impaired ability to metabolise organophosphates. Funding body: Dept Veteran's Affairs

Prevention of Workplace Ill-health

Noise Induced Hearing Loss – This study aims to investigate the growing issue of occupational noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). The project is undertaking an objective evidence-based evaluation of the current Impairment Benefits criteria for noise induced hearing loss, including recommendations for any changes suggested by the medical and health research literature and practice in other compensation jurisdictions. It is also analysing the workers' compensation claims data in Victoria to identify factors relating to the recent increase in NIHL claims. Funding body: Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research

WorkHealth – This is a collaborative study between the SPHPM, WorkSafe Victoria and the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) that aims to evaluate the WorkHealth program in Victoria. This will involve analysing the healthcheck data, undertaking a prospective study of participants, identifying the most effective ways to target interventions and undertaking a process evaluation of the WorkHealth program. Funding body: WorkSafe Victoria

Emerging technologies

Shift work study – In an NHMRC funded general population case-control study run from WAIMR, we are cooperating in investigating the relationship between shiftwork and risk of breast cancer. We are also investigating other occupational exposures such as PAH and solvent exposure. Funding body: NHMRC

Extent of occupational health hazards at work – We are collaborating with WAIMR in this study, funded by the Cancer Council of Western Australia 2010. It aims to identify the proportion of the Australian workforce that are exposed to occupational carcinogens identified from the IARC Class 1 and 2A carcinogens in order to be better able to assess the extent of the burden of occupational caner in Australia. Funding body: Cancer Council of Western Australia

OccIdeas – In another study lead from WAMIR, and funded initially by NHMRC, we have helped to set up an expert system that will quickly, efficiently and transparently carry out occupational exposure assessments in an automated fashion. Users will be able to select the exposures of interest, which identifies only the necessary questions. These are then administered to cases and controls and their answers identify the probability and extent of likely exposure to a range of specific occupational exposures eg solvents, lead, pesticides. We are currently validating the exposure assessments. Funding body: NHMRC

National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance survey: wet work exposure – This study describes the occupational and demographic characteristics of workers exposed to wet working conditions. Funding body: Safe Work Australia

Occupational exposures and associations with cardio-metabolic risk biomarkers in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AUSDIAB) Study – This study explores associations between occupational sedentary time (time spent sitting at work) and objectively measured cardiometabolic biomarker outcomes. Funding body: NHMRC Postdoctoral Fellowship

OHS standards in the Asia Pacific region – Many countries in the Asia pacific region are rapidly industrialising and there is a risk of health and safety standards lagging behind. This study is comparing standard setting processes and limits in these countries.

Environmental Health Projects

Disease Registries

Australian Mesothelioma Registry – This Registry is collecting detailed occupational and environmental exposure information from all cases of mesothelioma diagnosed Australia-wide, focusing on asbestos exposure. Funding body: Safe Work Australia

Mobile Phone Research

EXPOSURE – This is a prospective cohort study of 600 late primary school students focusing on mobile phone exposure and cognitive development. The study aims to assess current use of mobile telephones and other radiofrequency communication technologies in a representative sample of primary school children ad relationship with cognitive development. Funding body: NHMRC

MOBI-KIDS – The health effects from mobile phone exposure, especially in young people, has been identified as a high priority research need by the World Health Organisation. This international multi-centre case control study, involving 14 research groups world-wide, will investigate radiofrequency radiation exposure from mobile phone use during childhood and adolescence and later onset of brain tumours in those aged 10–24 years. Funding body: NHMRC

ACRBR – The Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research (ACRBR), established through funding from the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence Scheme, has been the pre-eminent body for electromagnetic energy (EME) research and research translation since its inception in 2004. Monash has the lead role in the epidemiological and public health research program of the ACRBR, with a particular interest in exposure assessment. Funding body: NHMRC

Air Pollution Research

MAP Study – Eczema is a major health problem with almost 1 in 3 Australian preschool children bearing the condition. Eczema is increasing nationally and worldwide and the association with air pollution is understudied. As there is evidence that prevention of eczema may reduce the risk of asthma, studying the triggers in children will allow for early intervention and result in long term health benefits. Funding body: Monash FMNHS Strategic Grant Scheme

PM2.5 and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest – This study linked the cardiac arrest registry and air pollution monitoring data for small particles and found an increase in cardiac arrests with increasing concentration of PM2.5 Funding body: Monash Strategic Grant Scheme

Various projects have been undertaken to contribute to the development of national guidance on developing health-based air quality standards (Air Quality NEPMs review) and to assist governments and local authorities with regional air quality risk assessments. Funding body: various government bodies (eg. Qld Health)

Risk assessment

Risk assessment activities inculde:

Updating national (enHealth) guidance on environmental health risk assessment. Funded by Vic Dept Health on behalf of enHealth.

Providing expert guidance to governments and the commercial sector on risk assessment projects. Funding: mainly covered above.

Participating in peer review of toxicity and risk assessment reports for government agencies, hospital ethic committees, and the commercial sector. Funding: various government and commercial sector sources.

Providing input into government expert panels and committees on chemicals risk management. Largely unfunded.