Sydney Doctor warns of health risk of Yarra River dredging

Sydney Harbour is closed to fishing due to cancer causing chemicals in fish after dredging. The same could happen here warns Sydney doctor 


Dr Mark Donohoe, a medical practitioner and environmental medicine expert in Sydney warns that parallels can be drawn from dredging of Port Phillip Bay and Sydney Harbour. Dr Donohoe has extensive knowledge in toxicology and has seen and tested many patients who have suffered from the toxic effects of dredging of Sydney Harbour.

Dr Mark Donohoe warns Victorians "don’t let the same mistake happen in Victoria as it did in Sydney Harbour. There is a great lesson to be learnt here. No one can eat the fish caught in Sydney Harbour anymore"

Like the Yarra River bed, Sydney Harbour suffers contamination from a number of different chemicals and heavy metals due to industry and stormwater discharge into the Harbour. These include the carcinogenic chemical Dioxin which incidentally was not tested or analysed by consultants for the Port Phillip Bay Channel Deepening Supplementary Environmental Effects Statement (SEES). According to the EPA, toxic Dioxins and Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) are found in the Yarra River sediments. The Port of Melbourne’s own figures on PAH suggest that the concentration in fish tissues could be hundreds of times US authority’s screening values. The Port of Melbourne Corporation’s absence of data for dioxins is unfortunate because Victoria’s EPA found them in fish from the Yarra in 2006.

Dr Mark Donohoe explains "contamination of Sydney Harbour seafood followed dredging of Homebush Bay in the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Extremely high levels of heavy metals and chemicals were identified following dredging of Homebush Bay" (similar to those found in Yarra sediment). "Dioxin levels in food had risen above WHO standards from negligible levels prior to dredging. The main polluters were massively fined".

"Blood samples taken from a Sydney group of fishermen who ate fish at least 3-4 times weekly showed high levels of dioxins". According to an ABC report at the time, one fisherman who began fishing full-time in 1946 had more than 113 picograms per gram of dioxin in his blood - more than ten times the Australian average. The son of a fisherman also had dioxin levels seven times higher than the typical Australian child after eating prawns caught from the Harbour. Dr Donahoe warns "dioxins are toxic carcinogenic chemicals that are known to concentrate in body fat".

As a consequence, commercial fishing, but not recreational fishing, was banned in Sydney Harbour in January 2006 after tests revealed extremely high levels of dioxin found in the marine life following dredging.

Concerned Melbourne doctors include: Professor Ian Brighthope; Professor Marc Cohen, Dr Gary Deed; Dr Vicki Kotsirilos; Professor Avni Sali 

Potential for more serious toxic damage in Port Phillip Bay - Melbourne's problem could be even bigger than Sydney's

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