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Public lecture given by Michael Ryan on 29 January 2007 in Norwich on the health damage of industrial PM2.5 emissions.


border image Lecture in Norwich on industrial PM2.5s border image
  Should past failures to get justice over health damage from industrial
PM2.5 emissions from incinerators etc. discourage further efforts?
By Michael Ryan BSc, C Eng., MICE

Some background

Action groups, or communities in the UK wishing to prove health damage from an industrial source of particles small enough to get into the lungs fail for a variety of reasons - but not due to lack of scientific merit.

In May 2002, I gave a lecture at UMIST called “Listening to local concerns” which was later published by TOXCAT, and is still online in the December 2002 issue, and which gave some detail of the Walsall scandal.

Walsall residents were very concerned in the 1980s about high rates of infant mortality, leukaemias etc. and the possible link with nearby hazardous waste sites and an incinerator. They tried to get help from the Council and Health Authority without success. They then “petitioned the Monarch”, ie they wrote to The Queen about their grievance and lack of remedy - an action that is the right of last resort of any community as far as I’m aware. Their appeal to The Queen was discussed at the Conservative Party Conference of 1989 and the appalling outcome of that complaint could be a blue-print for all complaints - as it’s so easy for public health doctors to conceal the truth and for Environmental Health Officers and politicians to collude with cover-ups. [Simon Conolly’s email to Michael Frater, 16 December 2005]

The complaint was referred back the Walsall Borough Council and the Department of Epidemiology at Walsall Health Authority studied of rates of illnesses and premature deaths by electoral ward. The study was carried out by a medically-qualified doctor and a statistician and their “Environmental Monitoring Report, November 1992” [cover] confirmed concerns raised by the local residents and recommended a further study. The terms of reference of the Walsall report [page 2] states: “The Environmental Monitoring Study was set up in November 1988 at the instigation of the Environmental Health Committee of Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council. Their resolution was:-

“That this council asks the appropriate Area Health Authority to investigate thoroughly the incidence of cancer, especially leukaemia, respiratory disease, stomach or bowel upsets, in the Borough of Walsall that may be in the vicinity of toxic waste disposal sites and report its findings and conclusions to the Council.”

The Walsall report should have saved thousands of lives over the last sixteen years, but it was shelved and no action taken. You can get confirmation by asking under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the above report, plus any follow-up studies from Walsall Teaching Primary Care Trust and from Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, together with details of action taken following that report. [page 40]

Just because others fail to get justice does not mean that it’s impossible. Dr van Steenis and I have been gathering health and mortality data in Shropshire for over two years after local councillors approached Dr van Steenis with concerns over emissions from Ironbridge power station. We have demonstrated an association between exposure to PM2.5 emissions from the power station and also obtained documentary evidence of a deliberate cover-up of the facts by public health doctors and others who are supposed to be protecting our health. [email Dr Woodward to Michael Frater, CEO of Telford & Wrekin Borough Council, 21 December 2005]

If you look at the map showing electoral wards around Ironbridge power station, you’ll see a group of orange-coloured wards immediately downwind of the power station, the prevailing wind direction in Shropshire being mainly from the west. [ward map]. These orange-coloured wards had a total of 6,591 live births recorded during the eight-year period 1998-2005 according to the Office for National Statistics. In the same period, fifty-one infant deaths were recorded: one every two months.

The green-coloured wards are upwind of the power station when the wind is from the west. Six of the seven green-coloured wards on this map had a total of 1,302 live births during 1998-2005, but zero infant deaths in each of those eight years. Now read Simon Conolly’s Shropshire Star letter dated 12 September 2005, which was printed twice, 21 Sept 2005 and again 8 August 2006.

A Telford man living in one of the orange-coloured wards was jailed for the manslaughter of his 8-week-old baby. If the jury in that case had known of all the other infant deaths in that area - and the lack of infant deaths upwind of the power station, they would have been less likely to convict. Some parents in that orange-coloured zone, and beyond, will have been suspected of harming a child and will have had their child, or children taken into care. I doubt if anyone in Social Services departments bothers to look at any official ward-based infant mortality data. Professor Sir Roy Meadow certainly did not, nor did Dr Dennis Southall - another discredited “expert” on infant deaths.

In June 2005, Dr van Steenis and I met Michael Gwynne, the Coroner for Telford, and showed him initial research detailing high childhood asthma in electoral wards with high rates of infant mortality, stillbirth, premature deaths from cancers, heart disease and “all causes”. Dr van Steenis told Mr Gwynne [2004 cover & map of cancer deaths] that the suicides will be mostly clustered in the electoral wards with high infant mortality rates. Michael Gwynne said, “That’s rubbish - everyone knows that suicides are random.” I’ve had research access to his register of suspicious deaths and found Dr van Steenis to be correct about the suicides and also some other categories of sudden deaths.

On 12 January 2007, a man in his 70s walked into the fast-flowing River Severn at Ironbridge [one of the high infant mortality/suicide/asthma/cancer etc. zones] and was saved by Environment Agency operatives who were erecting flood barriers [Shropshire Star article “Pensioner rescued from river”].

Think about the Dr Shipman scandal for a few moments. The first person to suspect Shipman was the mini-cab driver who turned up to take his regular customers on trips, only to find that they had suddenly died without being ill. He told his partner who warned him to keep quiet or he’d lose his cabbie’s licence. The next person to correctly suspect Shipman was a lady GP who wrote to the coroner about her suspicions. That coroner apparently “monitored” the situation for 3 months and then decided that the GP was a pre-menopausal idiot with a grudge against Dr Shipman.

There is no effective monitoring of public health doctors in the UK and the public are too trusting, or too apathetic to demand an effective service from Directors of Public Health who enjoy high salaries and a job that is remote from public scrutiny. Directors of Public Health are statutory consultees for industrial processes which either emit, or could emit, substances that might damage health.

If a Director of Public Health signs a document asserting that an industrial process will have no significant impact on human health, but later find an increase in rates of illness and premature deaths, the most likely action will be no action at all. Who will know? Who will be able to prove an association between an industrial process and illness rates and deaths? If someone can prove association, it’s easy to write a fraudulent report that apparently disproves what is glaringly obvious. That is what Dr Woodward has done over the Ironbridge issue with her report of 9 May 2006.

Unfortunately for Dr Woodward, she had no idea that I’d submitted a statement of evidence to the parliamentary committee examining the Environment Agency and my 6-page statement was published on 11 May 2006, having been e-mailed to the House of Commons in November 2005 [cover & page Ev204 of report].

If you enter [David Wright, Michael Ryan] into a search engine you should see the 2-page letter that David Wright MP wrote to Sir Michael Jack MP requesting that my statement be deleted from the parliamentary website and also the reply from Sir Michael Jack MP stating why he cannot remove my statement. David Wright’s constituency includes the orange-coloured wards downwind of Ironbridge power station, with the exception of Broseley, which is in Philip Dunne’s constituency.

Incinerators & ill-health

What happens if someone suspects that an incinerator has caused the death of a member of their family?

A or even if the story links two similar deaths [Shrewsbury Chronicle, 13 October 2005].
local paper might do an article, especially if it ties in with an anti-incinerator campaign [Bexley Times, 24 October 2002], or even if the story links two similar local deaths with a possible common cause [Shrewsbury Chronicle, 13 October 2005].

If you watch BBC’s “This Week” programme about living with leukaemia in February 2007, you’ll see an 8-year old neighbour of mine who has the same acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that killed my son and also his Junior school classmate in 1998 and 1999, when both lads were 19 years old.

National Newspapers rarely have articles linking leukaemia tragedies with incinerators [Daily Express, 25 January 2005], but when they do, you’d expect anti-incinerator groups to make use of them and snowball the story in different locations with incinerators.

I purchased a set of birth and mortality data from the Office for National Statistics, for every electoral ward in England & Wales for the three years 2003-5 so that I could examine infant mortality rates around incinerators as nobody else seemed to have done it.

Here are ward maps showing upwind and downwind zones around incinerators at Coventry, Kirklees and Edmonton, with infant mortality rates higher in the downwind zones compared with upwind.

These show an association between high rates of infant mortality and exposure to PM2.5 emissions from the incinerators. The data does not prove causation, ie there may be other factors. The data does demonstrate cause for concern, and yet the Department of Health has no concerns at all about health damage from incinerators because appear not to have bothered to examine any hospital admissions or mortality data.

I used to live in the London Borough of Bexley, and if you look at the ward map for Bexley, you’ll see that six of the 22 wards had zero infant deaths in each of the three years 2003-5. Those wards were all in a single group that is away from, and upwind of, the two incinerators within the Borough: Crossness sewage sludge incinerator in Thamesmead East ward, and White Rose clinical waste incinerator in Sidcup ward, and also the Littlebrook D Power Station [Dartford] just outside the North East boundary of the Borough.

The Bexley wards with the highest premature death rate for under 85s during 1999-2003 were North End ward [Standardised Mortality Ratio=128] and Thamesmead East and Sidcup [SMR=114 in both wards]. The standardised mortality ratio is obtained by dividing the actual number of deaths in an electoral ward by the number of deaths that would have occurred if the death rate had been the same as the average death rate for England & Wales, on a pro rata basis. The result is then multiplied by 100, so that anywhere with an SMR greater than 100 has a higher than average death rate. If you look at the SMRs in Ceredigion, where the air is very clean, only two of the wards have SMRs greater than one hundred, one being SMR=101 and the other SMR=105. Ceredigion residents are long-living and their children consistently get the highest percentage of GCSE Grade A*-C out of the 22 Welsh administrative districts.

It’s all about location. If you live where the air is clean, your life will be longer and healthier and you’ll be able to stay active into old age, just like the people in the Olivio advert which is an accurate portrayal of life in parts of southern Italy.


If an industrial process is claimed to cause no harm to health, it should be possible to prove it by honest examination of sickness and mortality data.

Data shown on these overheads are held by the Office for National Statistics and show an association between exposure to industrial PM2.5 emissions and high rates of infant mortality. Such patterns have been known about for decades, but the deaths are one-at-a-time, in hospital side rooms, hospices or family homes. If the deaths had occurred in a group, such as a major accident of plane, train or boat, the media would have had an obvious focus and photo-opportunity.

There are about 190,000 avoidable premature deaths from industrial PM2.5 emissions in the UK every year. That’s about 520 people dying every day of the year who are no less dead than if they’d been victims of a major tragedy that dominated newspaper headlines for a few days or weeks.

Nothing will be done about these premature deaths until the public are aware of them, and also the causes. The US have reduced industrial PM2.5 emissions since 1997 and saved $193 Billion in reduced hospital visits and fewer days off work.

The UK has increased industrial PM2.5 emissions and increased the profits of some industries, especially the drug companies, whilst overloading the majority of hospitals and also ensuring that the “pension problem” is solved because life-expectancy in the UK is in decline.

You’ll all have read or heard that “people are living longer” and it’s a nice thing to believe, but it isn’t true. Just because the government, or “experts” tell you something doesn’t make it true. It’s nice to think that your father or grandfather lived until he was 80 or 90, so that means you’ll live to same age plus five or more years.

Think about the evidence suggesting people are living longer, and it suggests the opposite. Anyone who has seen an “age at death” graph for a large population will notice a spike in year 1, because many die in their first year of life. Right at the opposite end of the graph are those people who live beyond one hundred years and who, since the practice started in 1917, will have received a telegram or congratulatory certificate from the King or Queen. If “everyone is living longer” it would be logical for the age of the oldest person to increase. In 2000, the oldest person in the UK was 115 years of age. Today, the oldest person in the UK is “only” 108, ie seven years younger in just under seven years. If this trend continues, it will not be long before the Queen, or King, will send out congratulations to those who reach 90 years of age.

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