Occupational and Environmental Health

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 13000 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 groupd according to new WHO disease guidelines for leukaemias and lymphomas and the data are been 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 8000 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 CounciI)

  • 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 Uni 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 evidencebased 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 also also investigating other occupational eposures 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 Post doctoral 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 focussing 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 NH&MRC 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 Fac MN&HS 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 (e.g. Qld Health))


    Greywater Research

  • The use of greywater by Melbourne households is being assessed by three survey modes (postal survey, telephone survey, internet survey). A subgroup of householders will be invited to take part in a water sampling program where they will also record health symptoms for a period of two weeks. The information collected about water use practices, microbial water quality and health symptoms will be used to model the potential health risks of current greywater use practices. (Funding Body: Victorian Smart Water Fund, Water Quality Research Australia)

    Recycled Water Research

  • The 'Water usage study': A population survey of water usage in households supplied with recycled water via a dual reticulation scheme (supplied with conventional tap water for drinking and recycled water for outdoor purposes such as garden watering) was conducted using telephone interviews and a water activity diary. Unintended and deliberate use of recycled water for nonendorsed purposes was reported, including use of recycled water to fill swimming and wading pools, which suggests a potential for unanticipated exposures to residual water contaminants within such schemes. (Funding Body: CRC for Water Quality and Treatment)

  • Understanding health effects among residents of dual reticulation systems: Health outcomes of residents of a dual reticulation scheme were assessed by measuring rates of General Practitioner consultations for selected health complaints, and comparing results with consultation rates among residents from an area receiving only a conventional water supply. No statistical difference in illness rates between water supply areas was found, indicating no significant elevation of adverse health outcomes related to recycled water exposure. This provides assurance to water suppliers and health authorities regarding the safety of appropriately operated and managed dual reticulation schemes. (Funding Body: CRC for Water Quality and Treatment)

  • Understanding the potential for exposure to residual contaminants in recycled water used for non-drinking purposes: A series of laboratory - based experiments was performed to assess the safety of using recycled water in domestic laundries, for irrigation of public parks, and for household activities including toilet flushing and car washing. (Funding Body: NHMRC, CRC for Water Quality and Treatment, Victorian Smart Water Fund)

  • Exploring the use of tracer chemicals to measure ingestion of water during non-potable uses. This pilot study is assessing the feasibility of using a non-toxic chemical which is excreted in urine to measure the volume of water accidentally ingested from sprays and droplets from activities such as car washing. If successful, this will enable future human volunteer studies of such exposures. (Funding Body: Water Quality Research Australia)

    Rainwater Research

  • The "Adelaide Rainwater Study": This study was the first randomised study to assess health effects from consumption of untreated rainwater. Health outcomes between households drinking either filtered or unfiltered rainwater were compared, and showed that rates of gastroenteritis were not statistically different between the two groups. This confirms a low risk of illness from rainwater consumption implying it can safely be used for many household activities, and facilitates evidencebased expansion of household rainwater usage. (Funding Body: NHMRC, CRC for Water Quality and Treatment)

    Drinking Water Regulation

  • Establishing Australian Health Based Targets for Microbial Water Quality. This project aims to develop a national consensus position for application of quantitative targets for microbiological safety of drinking water supplies. The lack of such targets has been recognised a significant limitation of the current Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Health-based targets provide the benchmarks for defining water safety, as the effectiveness of risk management plans can be verified by evidence of compliance with specified targets. (Funding Body: NHMRC, Water Quality Research Australia)

  • Participation in the development and revision of national guidelines on drinking water, water recycling, and providing expert advice on regional programs. (Funding: the development of national guidelines was unfunded; ongoing work on the SEQ recycled water expert panel is funded by the Qld Water Commission)

    Soil contamination

  • Various projects have been undertaken to assist with review of national guidance on contaminated sites assessment (Contaminated Sites NEPM review) and the peer review of risk assessments relating to contaminated sites has also been looked into (Funding: NEPM work funded in part by Commonwealth Dept Health & Ageing (DoHA); other projects funded by State & local government agencies & commercial sector companies (e.g. Xstrata))

    Risk assessment

    Risk Assessment activities include:

  • 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 (Funding: largely unfunded)