Carnarvon sufferer’s push for class action on pesticide use

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianMidwest Times
Rhonda Van Duhn.
Camera IconRhonda Van Duhn. Credit: Geoff Vivian, Midwest Times

Rhonda Van Duhn is urging cancer sufferers like herself who lived in Carnarvon in the 1970s and 80s to join a class action.

She claims the misuse of insecticides and herbicides by some growers and the Shire of Carnarvon led to unusually high levels of cancer among residents and former residents, and she wants this to be acknowledged.

Mrs Van Duhn said herbicides had been poorly stored and lost in floods, and fishermen at sea later found the drums they came in.

She claims chemicals that were later banned in Australia were used freely, and then contaminated the town water supply.

But Mrs Van Duhn was quick to point out these practices were “historical” and planters were themselves contaminated.

“Growers today are either organic or use chemicals responsibly,” she said.

Mrs Van Duhn also said chemicals had been used inappropriately for mosquito fogging and weed spraying in the township, and remembers 10 reported miscarriages occurred in a single night after mosquito fogging.

She said she had made requests under Freedom of Information legislation to obtain statistics about cancers, conducted by people who lived in Carnarvon in the 1970s and 80s, but had received an inadequate report.

“Trying to get this information out of the Government is extremely frustrating and nerve-racking,” she said.

“I feel like they’ve not taken it seriously, they have not observed all the questions that were asked and they haven’t answered those questions.”

Mrs Van Duhn invites cancer patients who live or have lived in Carnarvon to contact her via the website carnarvoncancercluster. com leaving their name, postcode and phone number.

She is also keen to hear from women who have experienced spontaneous miscarriages in Carnarvon.

“I understand that to some women this is still very painful,” she said.

“Confidentiality is assured.”

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