Parliamentary Committee: Tabling ‘Inquiry into bio-toxin related illnesses in Australia’ Report

  • October 17, 2018

(North Sydney) (09:31): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport I present the committee’s Report on the inquiry into biotoxin-related illnesses in Australia, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

by leave—Mould is a naturally occurring part of the environment and is harmless to most people. For some, mould may cause an allergic reaction that is usually temporary. In rare cases an infection can occur. In addition, some individuals have described experiencing a range of often-debilitating cognitive and physical symptoms which they have linked to being exposed to mould or a water-damaged building. This experience has been described as chronic inflammatory response syndrome, or CIRS. This report outlines seven recommendations which pertain to mould, CIRS-like symptoms and unexplained and complex illness more broadly.

Firstly, the committee has recommended the Australian government produce and publish information on and conduct further research into dampness and mould in the built environment. Specifically, this research should cover the health impacts, prevalence and effective methods of prevention and remediation of dampness and mould. To ensure quality and consistency of method, the committee has recommended greater regulatory oversight of the mould testing and remediation industries. In addition to helping prevent buildings becoming significantly damp or mouldy in the first instance, the committee has recommended a review of the adequacy of existing building standards and codes. A number of individuals provided personal accounts of living in a rental property with mould or water damage and also experiencing significant health issues. To enable prospective tenants to make an informed decision about their living arrangements, the committee has recommended they be provided with information about disclosure and rectification of any previous or existing mould or water damage in a property before entering into a residential leasing agreement.

Throughout this inquiry, the committee heard that people presenting with numerous symptoms that are seemingly unrelated have had difficulty in finding a diagnosis and treatment. Consequently, many of these people spend considerable time, money and effort consulting multiple doctors without success. To help address this issue, the committee has recommended the Department of Health conduct a review into the treatment of patients who present with complex illness that is difficult to diagnose. This review should consider issues including how to provide these patients with effective and timely treatment and what further support for medical professionals is needed so they can effectively assist these patients.

The committee has recommended research be commissioned into CIRS-like symptoms in order to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and management of CIRS and also examine any links CIRS may have with mould and biotoxins. In addition, the committee recommended the development of clinical guidelines for general practitioners for CIRS-like conditions to help ensure a consistent and evidence based approach to the diagnosis and treatment of patients presenting with these symptoms. Developing clinical guidelines in consultation with patient groups, medical practitioners and health bodies will ensure they are effective and targeted.

This report has tackled a difficult area of health and public policy. CIRS is not a syndrome broadly recognised by health experts in Australia. Yet the committee heard heartbreaking evidence from individuals who suffer from multiple and often severely debilitating symptoms which they link to mould exposure. Often those symptoms have ruined lives, making employment and normal social interaction near impossible. We owe it to those Australians to do more to ensure their very real health needs are better understood and treated.

I want to thank my fellow committee members, particularly the member for Robertson, for their collective work in the preparation of this report. I also extend my thanks to the many experts and patients that gave of their time to provide testimony, often about very personal stories which were hard to talk about in a committee environment. Finally, the committee has been well served, as usual, by the committee staff, who perform their roles with great dedication and professionalism. I commend the report to the House.