Expert named to lead epidemiological study around Williamtown and Oakey Defence bases

STUDY: Dr Martyn Kirk from the Australian National University has been an epidemiologist for over 20 years and will lead a new study, looking at the health of populations exposed to firefighting chemicals from the Williamtown and Oakey Defence bases. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

STUDY: Dr Martyn Kirk from the Australian National University has been an epidemiologist for over 20 years and will lead a new study, looking at the health of populations exposed to firefighting chemicals from the Williamtown and Oakey Defence bases. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

A public health expert from the Australian National University has been appointed to lead a health study looking for patterns of disease among people who have been exposed to toxic firefighting chemicals, as a result of living close to Defence bases at Williamtown and Oakey. 

According to the university’s website, Associate Professor Dr Martyn Kirk specialises in the study of diseases transmitted by contaminated food or water and “the response of government agencies to outbreaks of infectious diseases.” 

He was previously the senior epidemiologist for OzFoodNet; an organisation established by the federal Department of Health in 2000 to provide better surveillance of food-borne diseases in Australia. 

He is also a member of the Foodborne Disease Epidemiology Reference Group – an advisory body to the World Health Organisation.  

Last year Dr Kirk was appointed chief investigator of a study into the links between living in a “Mr Fluffy” home containing asbestos in the ACT and health effects.

A report released by the researchers found Mr Fluffy victims had suffered extreme levels of distress at having to leave their homes, and for some the stress had manifested in physical symptoms. 

Federal Member for Paterson Meryl Swanson welcomed Dr Kirk’s appointment. “Blood tests, and this long-term study are good news. But the people in our community affected by this scandal still have a lot of questions unanswered,” Ms Swanson said.

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