RESIDENTS who fear there may be a cancer cluster centred on a Newcastle electricity substation have called on authorities to investigate.
Julie Galli, pictured, has lived next door to the Hamilton South substation with her family for 34 years and said her mother, sister and pet dog all developed cancers.
She lost her mother Joy to stomach cancers in November at age 71, her 31-year-old sister developed melanomas in 2008 and most recently her dog Molly, 14, developed a rare meningioma and lost her eye.
Ms Galli said four people had died of cancer in the neighbourhood in the past five years.
She has compiled a list of neighbours with cancer and has called for others to come forward.
‘‘Instead of waiting for kids to come down with leukaemia, let’s look into it,’’ she said.
‘‘People who live around here, get yourselves checked out if you’re feeling off.’’
Neighbour Jeremy Simon has lived in the street for about 30 years and was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2009.
He said he would back any inquiry into possible carcinogenic effects from the substation.
‘‘If it’s going to stop cancer spreading that’s definitely worth looking into,’’ Mr Simon said.
‘‘It’s not just for me, it’s for everybody – there’s little kids around here.’’
Hunter New England Health public health physician David Durrheim said the service took such reports seriously and would contact residents to investigate.
However he said because cancer was so common, groupings of cancer could occur by chance.
‘‘Cancer clusters with an environmental cause are very rare,’’ Dr Durrheim said.
He said international regulators did not consider the low-frequency electromagnetic fields from electricity utilities a cancer risk.
While some studies suggested an elevated risk in childhood leukaemia, it was unproven.
Following inquiries from the Newcastle Herald, substation operator Ausgrid sent workers to Douglas Way to measure electromagnetic fields in the street.
A spokeswoman said they found the levels typical of any suburban street.
‘‘Typical [electromagnetic fields] readings near substations are a fraction of the recommended guidelines,’’ she said.
‘‘Ausgrid has not been contacted by the residents, however we are happy to speak with them.’’
Ms Galli said she was concerned by the prevalence of stomach cancer in particular, the rare cancer in her dog and that it was an issue for all the houses that bordered the substation.
The Newcastle Herald spoke to other neighbours, who also expressed concern.
Cancer Council NSW Hunter manager Shayne Connell said while most clusters turned out to be coincidences they were happy to hear concerns.
‘‘The amount of [electromagnetic fields] from a powerline falls as you get further away from it, and once you are 200metres away you are out of its range,’’ council advice states.