Citizens discover cancer cluster

Citizens' Epidemiology discovers cancer cluster
Unique health survey in Burnham on Sea implicates Hinkley

Get the report from this site (165 Kb pdf)

A group of committed parents has conducted a unique doorstep survey of its own community and discovered appalling levels of cancer just five miles from Hinkley Point.

The results show cancer INCIDENCE not mortality. This gives a tighter correspondence to environmental causes and confirms the findings of local cancer mortality studies Green Audit has undertaken over the past two years (these are referred to elsewhere on this site).

The latest study (1) covers a six year period from 1996-2001 and analyses the responses of some 1,500 people. It shows

  • cervical and kidney cancer at over five times the national average
  • four times the average leukaemia diagnoses
  • double the national rate for breast cancer.

The questionnaire survey was conducted by a group of Burnham residents called 'Parents Concerned About Hinkley' and analysed by Dr Chris Busby who, over the past two years, has shown high cancer mortality in the town which he connects with radioactive discharges from nearby Hinkley Point. This differs from previous studies as it examines the number of people diagnosed with cancer, as opposed to the numbers of cancer death. This method gives a much stronger link to a local environmental cause, due to the shorter time-span from the trigger event to the physical outcome.

The survey confirms Dr Busby's findings published two years ago showing that breast cancer deaths in North Burnham electoral ward were double the national average. It also exposes other high cancer rates not available from the Office of National Statistics from which he drew his earlier conclusions.

Dr Busby said, "This is the first citizens' health survey of this sort in the UK and I applaud the group for their very hard work. They were forced to go down this road as the Health Authority refused to publish its figures. Now we see a picture confirming my fears that Hinkley discharges are responsible for severe health problems here. All the epidemiology points to that conclusion."

Dr Busby's work has been testing the hypothesis that radioactive particles discharged into the sea are deposited on the local mudbanks, blown downwind and inhaled by residents on a chronic basis, triggering the cancer. This theory is supported by the survey which shows over half of those diagnosed with cancer have hobbies involving the sea, eg water-sports or digging for bait on the beach. Out of ninety five people with cancer going back to 1989, forty-nine (52%) took part in sea connected activities.Fourteen of the cancer group had outdoor jobs (15%) and twelve ate local fish or shell-fish regularly (thirteen per cent). Twenty per cent (20.1%) of the group were smokers, which is less than the twenty seven per cent average of smokers in the UK. ('Action on Smoking' figures)

The survey sponsors, Stop Hinkley, are currently campaigning against a new nuclear power station proposed for Hinkley and together with 'Parents Concerned About Hinkley' held an opinion poll in Burnham in January on the subject. Eighty three per cent of Burnham residents said they did not want another nuclear plant.


1 Cancer in Burnham on Sea North: Results of the PCAH Questionnaire Busby C, Rowe H Green Audit Occasional Paper 2002/5 (as a pdf file)

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