'High' new cancer cases in one area near cement factory

Hanson cement works at Padeswood, Flintshire Hanson has said there are no health risks at the plant

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Investigations into health concerns over a Flintshire cement plant have found that new diagnoses of cancer are "significantly higher" than the national average in one area nearby.

Public Health Wales identified higher new cancer rates in the area comprising Caergwrle, Hope and Llanfynydd.

In six other areas examined, the number of new cancer cases "was similar to or better than Wales as a whole".

Hanson said it was a step towards showing people had "nothing to fear".

Health Minister Edwina Hart ordered Public Health Wales (PHW) to investigate earlier this year after some residents claimed there was an "increase in the cases of various cancers" in the areas surrounding the company's plant.

PHW held drop-in sessions to invite comments and concerns.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, PHW, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, the Health Protection Agency, Environment Agency Wales, the Food Standards Agency and Flintshire County Council reported on the views of local people on Thursday.

Start Quote

We would like now to see a speedy resolution, so as not to cause unnecessary anxiety among local people”

End Quote Spokesman Hanson Cement

They also presented a draft report, describing the health of people in the area compared with other parts of Wales.

Although it does not examine cause and effect, the report examined 21 indicators of health in each of seven defined locations.

Of those indicators, 20 were found to be similar to or better than Wales as a whole in all seven areas.

One indicator - people with a new diagnosis of cancer - was similar to or better than Wales as a whole in six of the seven areas.

However, in one of the seven areas - Hope, Caergwrle and Llanfynydd - the figure for new diagnoses of cancer is "significantly higher than Wales as a whole".

According to PHW: "There are 13 other locations in north Wales, not near to the cement works, where similar rates can be found."

Dr Roland Salmon, a consultant epidemiologist with Public Health Wales, who presented the report, said: "Factors contributing to health are complex. Effects such as deprivation are known to make an impact."

He added: "Our investigations are not at a stage where we can make conclusions about the causes of cancer.

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Of those who do have concerns, the most common are health especially cancer and respiratory disease”

End Quote Andrew Jones Besti Cadwaladr

"There are many types of cancer and each of them is associated with different causes. More detailed work on cancer is already being undertaken."

A Hanson spokesman said: "This is just another step in the process of reassuring people living around the site that they have nothing to fear from our operations.

"Hanson has been impressed by the thorough and even-handed way Public Health Wales has carried out its review but we would like now to see a speedy resolution, so as not to cause unnecessary anxiety among local people."

Representatives of 107 community groups were invited to attend six focus groups during the investigation.

Two public drop-in sessions were held and PHW staff approached people with questions in seven 'walkabouts'.

The investigation team also distributed 19,600 newsletters

PHW said 175 people gave their views. Of the 104 people approached directly in walkabouts, 34 declined to respond.

Andrew Jones, executive director of public health for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, and chair of the investigation, said: "There are a significant number of people who have chosen not to tell us what they think.

"There is evidence that some people do not have concerns about Hanson Cement. Of those who do have concerns, the most common are health especially cancer and respiratory disease."

Most complaints came from places closest to the site, with noise being the main problem for people living in the direction of Padeswood.

Complaints about dust were more widespread but came mainly from the area towards Penyffordd.

Dr Judy Hart, a consultant in communicable disease control with Public Health Wales, will present a description of complaints about Hanson Cement to the company, Environment Agency Wales and Flintshire County Council.

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