Environmental Health Branch

Brisbane, Australia

Environmental Health Branch

Brisbane, Australia

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Hooker C.,University of Sydney | Capon A.,Environmental Health Branch | Leask J.,University of Sydney
Public Health Research and Practice | Year: 2017

In this article, we summarise research that identifies best practice for communicating about hazards where the risk is low but public concern is high. We apply Peter Sa0000000ndman's 'risk = hazard + outrage' formulation to these risks, and review factors associated with the amplification of risk signals. We discuss the structures that determine the success of risk communication strategies, such as the capacity for early communication to 'capture' the dominant representation of risk issues, the importance of communicating uncertainty, and the usefulness of engaging with communities. We argue that, when facing trade-offs in probable outcomes from communication, it is always best to choose strategies that maintain or build trust, even at the cost of initial overreactions. We discuss these features of successful risk communication in relation to a range of specific examples, particularly opposition to community water fluoridation, Ebola, and routine childhood immunisation. In this article, we summarise research that identifies best practice for communicating about hazards where the risk is low but public concern is high. We apply Peter Sandman's 'risk = hazard + outrage' formulation to these risks, and review factors associated with the amplification of risk signals. We discuss the structures that determine the success of risk communication strategies, such as the capacity for early communication to 'capture' the dominant representation of risk issues, the importance of communicating uncertainty, and the usefulness of engaging with communities. We argue that, when facing trade-offs in probable outcomes from communication, it is always best to choose strategies that maintain or build trust, even at the cost of initial overreactions. We discuss these features of successful risk communication in relation to a range of specific examples, particularly opposition to community water fluoridation, Ebola, and routine childhood immunisation.


Wang X.Y.,Queensland University of Technology | Barnett A.G.,Queensland University of Technology | Yu W.,Queensland University of Technology | FitzGerald G.,Queensland University of Technology | And 6 more authors.
Occupational and Environmental Medicine | Year: 2012

Objectives: Heatwaves can have significant health consequences resulting in increased mortality and morbidity. However, their impact on people living in tropical/subtropical regions remains largely unknown. This study assessed the impact of heatwaves on mortality and emergency hospital admissions (EHAs) from non-external causes (NEC) in Brisbane, a subtropical city in Australia. Methods: We acquired daily data on weather, air pollution and EHAs for patients aged 15 years and over in Brisbane between January 1996 and December 2005, and on mortality between January 1996 and November 2004. A locally derived definition of heatwave (daily maximum ≥378C for 2 or more consecutive days) was adopted. Case-crossover analyses were used to assess the impact of heatwaves on cause-specific mortality and EHAs. Results: During heatwaves, there was a statistically significant increase in NEC mortality (OR 1.46; 95% CI 1.21 to 1.77), cardiovascular mortality (OR 1.89; 95% CI 1.44 to 2.48), diabetes mortality in those aged 75+ (OR 9.96; 95% CI 1.02 to 96.85), NEC EHAs (OR 1.15; 95% CI 1.07 to 1.23) and EHAs from renal diseases (OR 1.41; 95% CI 1.09 to 1.83). The elderly were found to be particularly vulnerable to heatwaves (eg, for NEC EHAs, OR 1.24 for 65-74-year-olds and 1.39 for those aged 75+). Conclusions: Significant increases in NEC mortality and EHAs were observed during heatwaves in Brisbane where people are well accustomed to hot summer weather. The most vulnerable were the elderly and people with cardiovascular, renal or diabetic disease.


Vaneckova P.,Queensland University of Technology | Neville G.,Environmental Health Branch | Tippett V.,Australian Center for Prehospital Research | Aitken P.,James Cook University | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology | Year: 2011

Various biometeorological indices and temperature measures have been used to assess heat-related health risks. Composite indices are expected to assess human comfort more accurately than do temperature measures alone. The performances of several common biometeorological indices and temperature measures in evaluating the heat-related mortality in Brisbane, Australia-a city with a subtropical climate-were compared. Daily counts of deaths from organic causes [International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 9th Revision, (ICD9) codes 001-799 and ICD, 10th Revision, (ICD10) codes A00-R99] during the period from 1 January 1996 to 30 November 2004 were used. Several composite biometeorological indices were considered, such as apparent temperature, relative strain index, Thomdiscomfort index, the humidex, and wetbulb globe temperature. Hot days were defined as those days falling into the 95th percentile of each thermal stress indicator. Case-crossover analysis was applied to estimate the relationship between exposure to heat and mortality. The performances of various biometeorological indices and temperature measures were compared using the jackknife resamplingmethod. The results show that more deaths were likely to occur on hot days than on other (i.e., control) days regardless of the temperature measure or biometeorological index that is considered. The magnitude of the odds ratios varied with temperature indicators, between 1.08 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02-1.14] and 1.41 (95%CI: 1.22-1.64) after adjusting for air pollutants (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than 10 μm and ozone).Average temperature performed similarly to the composite indices, but minimum and maximum temperatures performed relatively poorer. Thus, average temperature may be suitable for the development of weather-health warning systems if the findings presented herein are confirmed in different locations. © 2011 American Meteorological Society.


Merrifield A.,Center for Epidemiology and Evidence | Schindeler S.,Center for Epidemiology and Evidence | Jalaludin B.,Center for Research | Jalaludin B.,University of New South Wales | Smith W.,Environmental Health Branch
Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source | Year: 2013

Background: During September 2009, a large dust storm was experienced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Extremely high levels of particulate matter were recorded, with daily average levels of coarse matter (<10 μm) peaking over 11,000 μg/m3 and fine (<2.5 μm) over 1,600 μg/m3. We conducted an analysis to determine whether the dust storm was associated with increases in all-cause, cardiovascular, respiratory and asthma-related emergency department presentations and hospital admissions. Methods. We used distributed-lag Poisson generalized models to analyse the emergency department presentations and hospital admissions adjusted for pollutants, humidity, temperature and day of week and seasonal effects to obtain estimates of relative risks associated with the dust storm. Results: The dust storm period was associated with large increases in asthma emergency department visits (relative risk 1.23, 95% confidence interval 1.10-1.38, p < 0.01), and to a lesser extent, all emergency department visits (relative risk 1.04, 95% confidence interval 1.03-1.06, p < 0.01) and respiratory emergency department visits (relative risk 1.20, 95% confidence interval 1.15-1.26, p < 0.01). There was no significant increase in cardiovascular emergency department visits (p = 0.09) or hospital admissions for any reason. Age-specific analyses showed the dust storm was associated with increases in all-cause and respiratory emergency department visits in the ≥65 year age group; the ≤5 year group had higher risks of all-cause, respiratory and asthma-related emergency department presentations. Conclusions: We recommend public health measures, especially targeting asthmatics, should be implemented during future dust storm events. © 2013 Merrifield et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Morgan G.,University of Sydney | Morgan G.,North Coast Area Health Service | Sheppeard V.,Environmental Health Branch | Khalaj B.,Center for Epidemiology and Research | And 7 more authors.
Epidemiology | Year: 2010

Background: Little research has investigated the health effects of particulate exposure from bushfires (also called wildfires, biomass fires, or vegetation fires), and these exposures are likely to increase, for several reasons. We investigated associations of daily mortality and hospital admissions with bushfire-derived particulates, compared with particulates from urban sources in Sydney, Australia from 1994 through 2002. Methods: On days with the highest particulate matter (PM)10 concentrations, we assumed PM 10 was due primarily to bushfires. We calculated the contribution of bushfire PM10 on these days by subtracting the background PM 10 concentration estimated from surrounding days. We assumed PM 10 on the remaining days was from usual urban sources. We implemented a Poisson model, with a bootstrap-based methodology, to select optimum smoothed covariate functions, and we estimated the effects of bushfire PM10 and urban PM10, lagged up to 3 days. Results: We identified 32 days with extreme PM10 concentrations due to bushfires or vegetation-reduction burns. Although bushfire PM10 was consistently associated with respiratory hospital admissions, we found no consistent associations with cardiovascular admissions or with mortality. A 10 μg/m 3 increase in bushfire PM10 was associated with a 1.24% (95% confidence interval = 0.22% to 2.27%) increase in all respiratory disease admissions (at lag 0), a 3.80% (1.40% to 6.26%) increase in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease admissions (at lag 2), and a 5.02% (1.77% to 8.37%) increase in adult asthma admissions (at lag 0). Urban PM10 was associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, as well as with cardiovascular and respiratory hospital admission, and these associations were not influenced by days with extreme PM10 concentrations. Conclusions: PM10 from bushfires is associated primarily with respiratory morbidity, while PM 10 from urban sources is associated with cardiorespiratory mortality and morbidity. © 2009 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Schaffer A.,Center for Epidemiology and Research | Muscatello D.,Center for Epidemiology and Research | Broome R.,Environmental Health Branch | Corbett S.,Center for Population Health | Smith W.,Environmental Health Branch
Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source | Year: 2012

Background: From January 30-February 6, 2011, New South Wales was affected by an exceptional heat wave, which broke numerous records. Near real-time Emergency Department (ED) and ambulance surveillance allowed rapid detection of an increase in the number of heat-related ED visits and ambulance calls during this period. The purpose of this study was to quantify the excess heat-related and all-cause ED visits and ambulance calls, and excess all-cause mortality, associated with the heat wave. Methods. ED and ambulance data were obtained from surveillance and administrative databases, while mortality data were obtained from the state death registry. The observed counts were compared with the average counts from the same period from 2006/07 through 2009/10, and a Poisson regression model was constructed to calculate the number of excess ED visits, ambulance and deaths after adjusting for calendar and lag effects. Results: During the heat wave there were 104 and 236 ED visits for heat effects and dehydration respectively, and 116 ambulance calls for heat exposure. From the regression model, all-cause ED visits increased by 2% (95% CI 1.01-1.03), all-cause ambulance calls increased by 14% (95% CI 1.11-1.16), and all-cause mortality increased by 13% (95% CI 1.06-1.22). Those aged 75 years and older had the highest excess rates of all outcomes. Conclusions: The 2011 heat wave resulted in an increase in the number of ED visits and ambulance calls, especially in older persons, as well as an increase in all-cause mortality. Rapid surveillance systems provide markers of heat wave impacts that have fatal outcomes. © 2012 Schaffer et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Capon A.,University of Sydney | Capon A.,Environmental Health Branch | Gillespie J.,University of Sydney | Rolfe M.,University of Sydney | Smith W.,Environmental Health Branch
BMC Public Health | Year: 2015

Background: Policy makers and regulators are constantly required to make decisions despite the existence of substantial uncertainty regarding the outcomes of their proposed decisions. Understanding stakeholder views is an essential part of addressing this uncertainty, which provides insight into the possible social reactions and tolerance of unpredictable risks. In the field of nanotechnology, large uncertainties exist regarding the real and perceived risks this technology may have on society. Better evidence is needed to confront this issue. Methods: We undertook a computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) survey of the Australian public and a parallel survey of those involved in nanotechnology from the academic, business and government sectors. Analysis included comparisons of proportions and logistic regression techniques. We explored perceptions of nanotechnology risks both to health and in a range of products. We examined views on four trust actors. Results: The general public's perception of risk was significantly higher than that expressed by other stakeholders. The public bestows less trust in certain trust actors than do academics or government officers, giving its greatest trust to scientists. Higher levels of public trust were generally associated with lower perceptions of risk. Nanotechnology in food and cosmetics/sunscreens were considered riskier applications irrespective of stakeholder, while familiarity with nanotechnology was associated with a reduced risk perception. Conclusions: Policy makers should consider the disparities in risk and trust perceptions between the public and influential stakeholders, placing greater emphasis on risk communication and the uncertainties of risk assessment in these areas of higher concern. Scientists being the highest trusted group are well placed to communicate the risks of nanotechnologies to the public. © 2015 Capon et al.; licensee BioMed Central.


Capon A.,University of Sydney | Capon A.,Environmental Health Branch | Rolfe M.,University of Sydney | Gillespie J.,University of Sydney | Smith W.,Environmental Health Branch
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health | Year: 2015

Objective: Introducing new technologies into society raises considerable public concern. We determine the public concern about nanoparticles, and compare this concern to other environmental health issues such as wind farms and coal seam gas production. Methods: A repeat cross sectional survey examining views on environmental health issues, risk, chemicals and trust was undertaken in more than 1,300 Australian residents in 2000 and 2013. Logistic regression and principal component analysis was used to investigate predictors of nanoparticle concern and identify a component structure for environmental health issues that could explain a trend of future nanoparticle concern. Results: Australians have a relatively low level of concern about the risks of nanoparticles to health when compared to their concerns about other environmental health issues. Items associated with concern included gender, a general wish to avoid chemicals and possibly trust in politicians. Concern over nanoparticles clustered with similar views on technological risks. Conclusions: Current public concern over the risks of nanoparticles is low. However, a reframing of the issue towards 'chemicals' is likely to have a negative effect on risk perceptions. This paper raises questions about appropriate channels for the effective communication of risk. © 2015 Public Health Association of Australia.


Morris D.,Environmental Health Branch | Wier M.,Environmental Health Branch
Transportation Research Record | Year: 2016

The collection and the analysis of transportation and health data, especially in geospatial terms, can be a complex process. TransBASESF.org is a geospatially enabled analytics database developed by the San Francisco, California, Department of Public Health and used to analyze, evaluate, monitor, and communicate transportation safety issues in San Francisco. The goal of TransBASESF.org is to serve as the central data repository for public health-related transportation data, to be a free and open data resource for the general public to use, and to support interagency collaboration, data standards, and data sharing in the City and County of San Francisco. The TransBASESF.org database currently includes more than 200 spatially referenced variables from multiple agencies and across a range of geographic scales, including infrastructure, transportation, zoning, sociodemographic, and collision data, all linked to an intersection or street segment. The TransBASESF.org database originated as a tool developed to facilitate health impact assessments and understand better the geographic distribution and characteristics of pedestrian injuries. The scope and the role have continued to evolve, and the database now plays a key role in the implementation of San Francisco's Vision Zero policy, an effort to reduce all modes of transportation-related fatalities to zero by 2024. The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the TransBASESF.org system, including its origin, development, content, technical specifcations, and examples of applications to date in informing transportation safety planning and policy in San Francisco.


PubMed | Environmental Health Branch
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (1995) | Year: 2017

The primary production of Pb via the sinter plant-blast furnace method resulted in a large number of Pb and other phases, reflecting the complex reactions occurring within each of the processes. Optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction (XRD) techniques have been used to characterize fugitive emissions and dusts generated during sintering, smelting, Cu drossing, refining, and slag fuming at a primary Pb-Zn smelter. The results displayed a complex array of phases, with the mineralogy of the dusts and fume reflecting conditions of the particular metallurgical operation. The principal Pb species followed a transformation from PbS through PbSO

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