A study into the health effects of the Hazelwood mine fire has found Morwell residents have a seven-fold risk of a heart attack, compared to others in Gippsland.
The Hazelwood Health Study’s first results have been published more than three years after the fire covered Morwell and surrounding towns in a thick plume of smoke and ash.
Investigators surveyed 3,096 Morwell residents and compared the results to 960 Sale residents who were used as a control population.
“The analysis of the adult survey provides the first available evidence of adverse cardiovascular, respiratory and psychological effects of the Hazelwood mine fire on the adults in Morwell,” the study’s principal investigator Michael Abramson said.
Investigators found people in Morwell were “seven times more likely to report that a doctor had diagnosed them with a heart attack,” Professor Abramson said.
“However, heart attack was reported by 1 per cent of Morwell participants and only 0.1 per cent of Sale participants, and findings based upon such small numbers should be interpreted with caution,” he said.
But while the heart attack risk was found to be much greater for Morwell residents, Professor Abramson said there wasn’t a spike in hospital emergency department presentations for heart problems.
“To be completely honest, we haven’t sorted that out,” he said.
“The adult survey is relying on self-report … one possibility is reporting bias, that is people in Morwell were much more aware of their health after the fire and more likely to remember events like this.