Two neighbours of high-profile cancer victim and film-maker Cameron
Duncan have been diagnosed with the disease - adding further weight to concerns about the apparent dangers of
overhead power lines.
While overseas investigations have found clear links between
electromagnetic radiation and childhood leukaemia and other forms of cancer, little research has been done in
The Auckland District Health Board has carried out an investigation
into the apparent cancer cluster in Massey, West Auckland, but found cancer rates there were no higher than in
other areas of a similar population level.
But the research data was based on who was living in the target area
up until 2001 and did not take into account the recent cases, which included Cameron and four others at Masseys
Royal Road school.
An Auckland urologist, who has studied the connection between
high-voltage power pylons and cancer, has found strong links between high-tension power lines and childhood
cancer, breast cancer and depression.
Meanwhile, energy giant Transpower - which is proposing a
controversial 400kV line from Whakamaru to South Auckland - says its lines are safe.
Months after the death of her son Cameron, Sharon Duncan remains
adamant about the reasons he went to an early grave - constant exposure to electromagnetic radiation from
overhead power lines.
She was shocked to hear two more of her neighbours had been diagnosed
with the disease that had killed her son.
"That takes the number of people with cancer surrounding our
house up to five," Mrs Duncan said.
"We had already lost two immediate neighbours to cancer and then
"And we have a power pole right in the middle of all the houses
One of the latest neighbours to be diagnosed is Parvati Smith, who
lives directly in front of the Duncans home.
"There seems to be a lot of us in the street who have
cancer," Mrs Smith told the Herald on Sunday.
"I think it needs to be looked into properly - there are too
many people around here with it."
Mrs Smith, who lives next door to Camerons former home, and Dorothy
Tyler, who lives directly across the road, have both been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year.
The street has power lines running through it - directly over the
Duncans home and over the Smiths.
Mrs Smith said finding she had breast cancer in a routine mammogram
in March was a huge shock.
"I was in a daze because I am very healthy and have no family
history but we do have the power lines over the house.
"My husband was quite worried about the powerlines and had
copper wiring put through the house a while back."
Mrs Smith does not know for sure what caused her cancer but said she
was considering moving.
"We have lived here for 23 years but it has made me think about
it. I spoke to Sharon and she told us to get out."
Mrs Duncan sold her Anich Rd property last year, saying she lived in
a cancer triangle.
It was also last year that details emerged that Cameron and two close
friends - Jeffrey Thumath and Charles Hetaraka - were diagnosed with cancer within two months of each other.
Cameron and Charles both died in 2003 when they were 17 and New
Zealand athletics champion Jeffrey, now 20, will soon have surgery for lung and stomach cancer.
The boys shared a number of commonalities including being born at St
Helens Hospital in Waitakere, attending the same school, playing competitive sport, and being diagnosed and
receiving treatment within two months of each other.
Their mothers - Gail Thumath, Elizabeth Hetaraka and Sharon Duncan -
all had a link to the West Auckland suburbs while they were pregnant.
It was also revealed last year that two other Royal Road School
pupils and another local boy living near the school had cancer.
Kristian Gibson was 14 when he died of a brain tumour. He was
at Royal Road School at the same time as the three boys and died in the same year as Charles and Cameron.
Another Royal Road pupil - who did not want to be named - developed
pre-cancerous cells in the same year.
Local boy Samuel England, 18, was diagnosed with cancer at 10 months
of age but is now clear of the disease.
Since then, other Massey residents with cancer, and parents who have
lost children to cancer, have come forward demanding answers.
Families bordering a sub-station in Timandra Ave in Massey claimed
their cats were having litters of deformed kittens, and living near the power centre was making them sick.
The Savaiinaea family have two children with leukaemia and their
mother, Violet, had a miscarriage last month at 22 weeks.
Mrs Savaiinaeas two children Sone, 8, and Alesha, 6, were born near
substations - Sone when the family was living in Otara and Alseha in Timandra Place.
Along with leukaemia, Alesha has severe asthma and Sone has
epilepsy. Both children have Nethertons Syndrome - a disease which causes their skin to peel and become
infected and makes them lose weight.
Her other children - who were not born near the substation - are
Mrs Savaiinaea - a taxi-call-centre worker - was made distraught by
the miscarriage. It is the second she has had since moving to Timandra Place.
"I knew something was wrong and I thought the baby had leukaemia
because the pregnancy was the same as when I had Alesha.
"I was about five months pregnant and I went to the doctor for
something else and they found the baby had stopped breathing," she said.
"The doctors had already told me if I got pregnant again there
was a 60 per cent chance I would have another baby with leukaemia."
Mrs Savaiinaea said her family has suffered ill health since moving
to the street eight years ago.
All the homes in the cul de sac are owned by Housing New Zealand.
She is convinced the substation has made her and her family sick and
said her mother doesnt visit any more because she gets headaches every time she visits.
"My mother has stopped coming around now because she gets bad
headaches every time she comes out here. She said it is the power station, so we have to take the kids to
see her now."
Mrs Savaiinaea said no one should be allowed to live under power
lines or near a substation.
The Auckland District Health Board launched an investigation into the
apparent cancer cluster late last year and released a report three weeks ago stating there was no elevated risk
in the area.
The report said the incidence of cancer in the area was not elevated
and "no environmental cancer-causing agents link the occurrence of the cancers involved".
But the mothers of Cameron, Charles and Jeffrey said the report used
outdated information and drew conclusions from a cancer register which did not include their sons.
Mrs Duncan, along with Mrs Hetaraka and Mrs Thumath noted the cancer
registry referred to went up to 2001 while their sons were diagnosed in 2002.
Medical specialist Dr Robin Smart has been studying the relationship
between power pylons and health effects since he found Transpowers proposed 400kV line from Whakamaru to South
Auckland would run 300m from his Whitford property.
The Auckland urologist has read 100 medical papers and found strong
links with overhead lines and health conditions like severe depression, childhood leukaemia - which is two or
three times higher - and breast cancer.
He said the power limits in New Zealand were far too high.
"Research shows that if you live near lines with more than 0.1
micro tesla of magnetic radiation there is evidence you are at risk."
He said levels here - set by the World Health Organisation - were far
"They have set very high levels of 200 micro tesla. It is
so high a lot of countries are now stopping people from living under the lines."
Mr Smart said the solution to the power-pylon debate was using the
safer DC lines - rather than the AC lines which have alternating or pulsing current - and putting them
Transpower spokesman Chris Roberts said the company maintained the
lines to the Ministry of Health guidelines. "We are not health experts - we just do as we are
told," Mr Roberts said.