Radioactive Times: LLRC Journal

Pembroke Road leukaemia cluster

report from Radioactive Times Volume 3, Number 1, March 1999 (content not updated)

Government investigation

The BBC may think it is impossible to find explanations for the deaths of the Pembroke Road leukaemia victims (see earlier story) but the parents are continuing their search. In November their Member of Parliament, Sally Keeble (Northampton North), took them to see Energy Minister John Battle at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr Battle's office tells LLRC that the immediate concern of his Department is health hazard from electromagnetic fields. He adds, however, that ‘the issues relate to a range of health and environmental concerns associated with the locations of the leukaemia cases.’

The range of possible factors has led Mr Battle to refer the matter to the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Robert May, at the Office of Science and Technology. Sir Robert's job is to deal with such inter departmentmental issues. LLRC has sent Sir Robert a copy of the Campaign's submissions to the Broadcasting Standards Commission. LLRC had complained to BSC (see RaT vol.2 No.4 p. 9) about the TV documentary Street of Doom which had used false mathematical analysis and historical airbrushing to argue that nothing could be discovered about the possible environmental causes of the Pembroke Road cluster in isolation. LLRC warned Sir Robert that the view of any establishment ‘experts’ he is likely to consult would probably reflect this approach.

Nuclear flask leakage

We would argue that because the Pembroke Road cluster is adjacent to a site of possible leakage from trains loaded with nuclear fuel flasks it should be seen as part of a pattern of statistically significant clusters associated with known or possible sites of radioactive emissions and pollution

Sir Robert's office says that the LLRC submission is the only one it has received on this issue.
OST is preparing a report.


LLRC has now heard from Sir Robert May (a letter dated 17th March 1999).

Dear Richard

Thank you for your letter of 19 January and your comments, primarily in relation to leukaemia clusters and the leukaemia cases in Northampton. I can confirm that I have seen both your letters to Mr Battle of 7 December and Mr Battle's reply of 6 January.

As you know, in December the Minister of State for Energy and Industry, Mr Battle, met Sally Keeble and several of her Northampton constituents whose children had died of childhood leukaemia. The context for the meeting was the possible hazards to health from electromagnetic fields, particularly overhead lines. As a result Mr Battle asked me to ensure that the appropriate public funded research was underway to address this, including the possibility that electric fields might concentrate harmful non-radioactive as well as radioactive airborne pollution. My view was that these issues were being seriously addressed by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the Department of Health and were the subject of ongoing research.

Most of the matters in your letter to me are being considered by the appropriate advisory committee to the Government, the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE). I have been advised that COMARE are indeed currently undertaking a study of the geographical distribution of childhood cancer in Great Britain and will report to the Department of Health when this is completed.

I am aware that the Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP met you and Dr Busby most recently on 8 February, together with representatives of the Department of Health and the NIRPB. I believe the issues that you raised in your recent letter to me and in earlier correspondence were fully discussed and that further action is being undertaken as a result.

As you say, the OST does have a role in ensuring that sensitive issues involving scientific advice or research are handled effectively across Government. It does appear at present that this case is being looked into by the appropriate bodies following your meetings with Michael Meacher. However, I have asked to be kept informed of developments.


Sir Robert May
From the Chief Scientfic Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology
Sir Robert May FRS
Office of Science and Technology
Albany House 94 98 Petty France London SW1H 9ST
Telephone 0171 270 1234 Direct Line 0171 271 2010 Fax 0171 271 2003
E-Mail Address:

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