Probe into cancers in Gainsborough

West Burton Power Station. (Photograph: CHRIS ETCHELLS G055CE)
West Burton Power Station. (Photograph: CHRIS ETCHELLS G055CE)
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ARE Gainsborough residents more likely to develop cancer?

That is the question being asked by a new group set up by West Lindsey District Council.

A working group has been formed to see if there is a link between Gainsborough’s neighbouring coal-fired power stations, other pollutants and local cancer rates.

This issue was raised by Coun Chris Underwood-Frost at a full council meeting before members agreed the issue would be referred to the Prosperous Communities Committee for consideration.

“I have cancer myself and everyday when I speak to people, I find that more and more local people are being diagnosed with or dying from cancer,” said Coun Underwood-Frost. “It seems so prevalent in this area, that it’s about time that someone asked the question of whether it has anything to do with pollutants. It was an article in Focus magazine that asked the question about whether coal-fired power stations produce radioactive waste - and the first word in the article was ‘yes’.”

He continued: “It’s not scaremongering and I’m not trying to worry people - I just want people to have their questions answered. I’m also not saying that this is the result of any specific sources or coal-fired power stations, but it’s definitely worth investigating whether we in the Gainsborough area are more susceptible to cancer as a result of our environment.”

Coun Underwood-Frost also said that he hoped that investigating such matters on a more local level would give us a greater understanding of health and the environment around Gainsborough.

“This is all about localism,”he said. “It’s about collecting information from our own backyard and our own soil, so people can have the facts about where they live. Who has set the parametres of what is acceptable? Is it those idiots in Europe? What’s that got to do with Gainsborough?”

A spokesman from EDF Energy who operate West Burton and Cottam power stations said: “It is well known and understood within the coal industry that fly ash does produce trace amounts of radioactivity, as do such things as coffee and brazil nuts.”

“What is important is context, and the typical levels of radioactivity from fly ash is around 10 microsieverts, while the average background radiation we receive is 2600 microsieverts. The maximum predicted public dose from atmospheric discharges from coal fired power stations is 1.5 microsieverts per year - as you can see we are talking about very tiny amounts of radioactivity at our stations.”

He contionued: “Our number one priority is safety and so we work with very closely with agencies such as the Health Protection Agency and the Environment Agency.”

“Recently a report by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment reported that any risk was ‘extremely small, if not actually zero’, around our nuclear sites.”

He added: “This does not mean we are complacent either here at West Burton and Cottam or any of our sites, and we will continue to work with EDF Group and the wider scientific community to ensure that our safety procedures and emissions are reflective of the latest knowledge on the subject.”