I’ve never known for sure whether there was a persistent radiation problem around the site of the December 1980 traffic accident on the Pacific highway, outside Laurieton. I do know that a truck, involved in a crash with a van was carrying radioactive isotopes (Americium 241 and Cesium 137), DDT, a mysterious substance called Strip X which was labelled, “Fatal if absorbed through the skin” and a quantity of Chinese food, tinned Lychees, boxes of food from ‘Yeo’s” and large containers of Chinese sauces.
A number of people became sick at the time, most prominently two police officers who spent a total of 16 hours at the crash site. Recent concerns arose after five workers on the same stretch of road developed symptoms of nausea and dry-throats, these have brought the 1980 crash back into prominence.
Authorities at the time chose to sweep the whole matter under the carpet, despite the persistent efforts of local GP Dr John Mackay, to bring several issues to public attention.
Following the accident Dr Mackay became aware that several of my patients, who’d been at the site of the crash, were manifesting symptoms “consistent with some form of chemical or radiation toxicity, or both, resulting from exposure to some radioactive toxins, and the chemicals D.D.T., and Sodium Proprionate.”
In his report on the incident Mackay cited a document from Arthur. C. Upton “Radiation Injury: Effects, Principles and Prespectives”. Upton outlines the prodromal manifestations of radiation sickness accordingly:
Anorexia, Apathy, Fever, Nausea, Prostration, Respiratory distress, Vomiting, ZPrespiration, Hyperexcitability, Diarrhea, Erythema, Ataxis, Fatugue and Conjunctivitis.
Not having medical training I can’t judge Dr Mackay’s acumen as a diagnostician, but he certainly posed some important questions.
Mackay was largely unsuccessful in gaining any significant official response to his concerns about symptoms amongst his patients so a group of concerned people, including myself, took his report to George Peterson MLA. George approached Pat Hills the relevant minister holding the portfolio for highways. According to George, Hills was not only unhelpful but so stridently dismissive of the report that he became convinced there must be something the government wanted to hide.
Since that time I’ve remained convinced that there had been a cover up. I didn’t know that some of the assorted chemicals had been left on site and simply buried a couple of metres down.
So, it was with some relief that I read of Greens MP Cate Faehrmann’s comments, reported in the Sydney Telegraph of 19 April, 2012 in which she said there appeared to have been a cover-up by previous governments and there needed to be an inquiry
There are many questions remaining unanswered. Despite initial tests of the accident site proving negative, further independent testing has been arranged.
Since we now have a government in NSW of different political complexion to the one that handled this matter in the first place, is it reasonable to believe that they will display a certain amount of courage in having this matter thoroughly investigated?