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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2357

Mr Garland asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(1)   With reference to his answer to my question No. 139 (Hansard, 27th March 1973, page 763), is the Government in a position to ensure that the compulsory exposure to ionizing radiation from the compulsory mass chest X-rays to be carried out in the Australian Capital Territory will have sufficient benefit.

(2)   What is (a) the anticipated risk and (b) the anticipated benefit in quantitative terms.

(3)   Does the modification of the compulsory X-ray requirement to which he referred indicate the belief of the Government that this radiation is more hazardous than was earlier thought.

Mr Whitlam - The answer to the honourable member's question, which is based on information supplied to me by the Minister for Health, is as follows:

(1)   There are medical grounds for concluding that the public health benefits will justify the survey.

(2)   (a) Calculations based on assumptions which overestimate the risk, show that the survey will have no discernible effect on the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory. The results of such calculations are given in the appended table.

(b)   The probable benefits are the discovery of about - (i)15 cases of unsuspected active tuberculosis

(ii)   125 cases of inactive tuberculosis

(iii)   400 other significant conditions requiring investigation and which include, for example, cancer, heart complaints, emphysema, etc.

Additionally, indirect benefits are expected to derive from the medical follow-up of contacts of sufferers and the discovery of persons with certain chest abnormalities who are prone to break down with tuberculosis.

(3)   No. The modifications made in the compulsory X-ray surveys in Australia have been related entirely to the public health benefits that accrue from each survey. With the decreasing incidence of tuberculosis it has been found possible to raise the minimum age for X-ray and lengthen the,' period between surveys.


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