Cancer rates shock for North Wales villages

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

THREE villages have been identified as hotspots for new cases of cancer after a public health investigation into a cement factory.

Health chiefs have announced their latest findings on the investigation into Hanson Cement, launched after residents claimed emissions from the Padeswood plant could be behind a perceived rise in respiratory diseases and cancer in the area.

Research into the Middle Super Output Area (MSOA) covering 7,000 residents in Hope, Caergwrle and Llanfynydd has found the number of people diagnosed with cancer in recent years to be “significantly higher” than the Welsh average and other communities in Flintshire.

But health chiefs could not comment on possible connections between the cancer levels and Hanson Cement.

Dr Roland Salmon, a consultant epidemiologist with Public Health Wales, said at a meeting in Mold yesterday that the research did not examine cause and effect as he presented the draft report on the health of people in the region.

The report examined 21 indicators of health in each of seven defined locations.

wenty of these 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.

Dr Solomon said: “Factors contributing to health are complex. Effects such as deprivation are known to make an impact.

“Routine information suggests that general health is good or better in the areas near the Hanson Cement works compared to that typical for Wales.

“The report shows that new diagnoses of cancer, deaths from cancer and admissions to hospital from respiratory conditions are similar to or better than that typical for Wales.

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

There are 13 other locations in North Wales, not near to the cement works, where similar rates can be found.

“Our investigations are not at a stage where we can make conclusions about the causes of cancer. There are many types of cancer and each of them is associated with different causes. More detailed work on cancer is already being undertaken.”

He added: “The findings are generally good news that suggest health is better next to Hanson Cement Works than people may have expected.”

Representatives of more than 100 community groups were invited to attend six focus groups during the investigations, while drop-in sessions and “walkabouts” by Public Health Wales were used to gain public responses.

Complaints made about Hanson Cement include people living in the direction of Padeswood complaining about noise, while concerns about dust have been expressed mainly from the Penyffordd area.

Andrew Jones, executive director of Public Health for Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board, said they had heard the concerns of many people about the plant but had also found residents who chose not to speak or appeared not to have concerns.

He said: “Of those who do have concerns, the most common are health, especially cancer, and respiratory disease.”

Mr Jones says anyone who has views on the issue is still welcome to share them and he praised the support and co-operation of Hanson Cement during the investigations.

A spokesman for Hanson Cement said: “We have always maintained there is nothing to fear and believe this will be clear when the report is published.

“Six of the seven areas near the plant are shown to have the opposite situation to the one where there has been a higher than average level of cancer diagnosis and there are areas in North Wales where the levels are high that are nowhere near the plant.

“This is just another step in the process of reassuring people living around the site that they have nothing to fear from our operations.”

The spokesman called for a speedy resolution to the investigations to limit anxiety fears in the Flintshire area.

See full story in the Leader

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