Tumours in Business

This has been on the news all day. The building house the school of business of RMIT has closed the top 2 storeys. I’ve seen that building. They are located along Bourke Street, opposite the Target shopping complex.

The current rumour is that Telstra has 2 mobile phone towers on the roof of that building and that could be the reason causing the staff to be ill. What is the likelihood that 7 staff working in the building develop brain tumours in the past 7 years? Many researchers will say there is insufficient evidence to prove that the electromagnetic radiation from the towers caused the tumours but what is the chances that people working together in the same building, in the same school, develop similar tumours within a time frame. I think the probability of winning the lottery is much higher. But, it could be in the water and air in the building.

Imagine if more staff and students present and students past come forward with tumours …
Just when I was thinking of going back to school …
Never liked Telstra anyway …

1 Comment so far

  1. Ben Hourigan (unregistered) on May 13th, 2006 @ 12:46 am

    Any statisticians out there who’d care to comment on this one? What _are_ the odds of winning the lottery, and what are the odds of seven people in the same building getting a brain tumor?

    Let me make some gestures towards answering the second question myself, with the disclaimer that I know very little about probability and that Wikipedia’s article on the subject [1] indicates it’s a very complex topic. I will almost certainly get this slightly wrong…

    One article in today’s Age says that RMIT has sent home 100 workers from the top 2 floors of the building in question. [2] So let’s assume we want to know what are the chances of 7 of a set of 100 people getting cancer in 7 years, assuming that the occurrence is random (and not clustered around environmental factors). Another article [3] has a professor of neuroscience stating that brain tumors affect 8 to 10 people per 100,000 per year.

    Let’s take the professor’s most conservative estimate, and say that brain tumors affect 8 people per 100,000 per year. That means they will affect 0.008 people per 100 per year, and 100 is the size of our sample. 7 * 0.008 = 875: at this rate we will only get 7 brain tumors out of the sample once every 875 years. What are the odds that we will get seven tumors in seven years? Pretty long, I’d imagine, but as long as winning the lottery? I doubt it.

    At any rate, I applaud the cool logic of the finance and accounting students quoted in yet another article, [4] who quite rightly point out that however unlikely, the cluster of tumors still could be just a coincidence.

    Apologies for the weird linking method, but the comments engine stripped out my attempts at using anchor tags.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probabilities

    [2] http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/phone-tower-cancer-fears/2006/05/11/1146940676777.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

    [3] http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/jury-still-out-on-towercancer-link/2006/05/11/1146940676789.html

    [4] http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/shocked-students-to-avoid-suspect-floors/2006/05/11/1146940676786.html

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