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Plymouth incinerator cancer row

The Plymouth Herald is reporting that:

The waste incinerator planned for Plymouth and South Devon is unsafe and could increase the risks of cancer, infant mortality and birth defects

This claim is attributed to leading Liberal Democrat politician Stephen Kearney, chairman of the South West Devon Lib Dems, who is calling for a full-scale debate into the incinerator proposed for Plymouth. He has written to city council leader Vivien Pengelly asking her to join in the debate.

In his letter to Mrs Pengelly, Mr Kearney said:

I am shocked that the elected representatives from the Labour and Conservative parties in this city are unaware of the dangers of this technology and have not debated the issues and given them a thorough public airing.

Since the Liberal Democrats highlighted the wastefulness of burning reusable resources, worrying statistical evidence is emerging that the mass burn incinerator planned for the region will pose significant health risks to the population.

Plymouth’s planned incinerator is part of a £1.5 billion, 30-year waste partnership with Torbay and Devon County Council.

According to The Herald:

The partnership is searching for a private contractor to build the plant and has earmarked possible sites at Ernesettle and the Imrys china clay works at Coypool, along with New England Quarry, south of Lee Mill, and the former naval stores at Wrangaton, off the A38.

The paper also reports:

Mr Kearney is inviting Dr Dick van Steenis, a retired GP, and an expert on the health effects of pollution from power stations and factories, to come to Plymouth to take part in the debate.

Dr Van Steenis is quoted in the article as saying:

Mass burn incineration has been more or less rejected by the French. Health studies in Belgium, the United States, Korea and Japan prove there is a link between mass burn incineration, cancer, infant mortality and birth defects.

Mr Kearney is also being advised by Michael Ryan, a chartered civil engineer who has spent years studying the impact of incinerators.

According to Mr Kearney:

Mr Ryan is convinced that the project planned for Plymouth and South West Devon will bring cancer and infant mortality. Mr Ryan tells me that the newest British incinerators are about the worst at causing the death of infants up to 15 miles downwind. He said his research showed there was a rise in baby deaths downwind of incinerators and new facilities were no better than the older ones.

Mr Kearney has called for the council to abandon plans for a large-scale incinerator. He is urging Plymouth to recycle far more of its waste and only resort to burning on a small scale. He has said that large incinerators generated a demand for waste to fuel their burners and hampered efforts at recycling.

Michael Ryan has contacted UKWIN with the following suggestion:

Anti-incinerator groups might care to ask Chris Smith [now Lord Smith of Finsbury], who is now Chairman of Environment Agency whether he can determine if the Environment Agency have looked at any rates of illness or premature deaths at electoral ward level around existing incinerators which persuaded him to make the statement to Julia Lewis, South London Press in May 2007: “no permit would be issued to an incinerator operator if a health risk was likely”.

It’s no good the Environment Agency relying on DEFRA report of 2004 which failed to examine any data. The Health Protection Agency also have failed to examine the rates of illness and premature deaths at electoral ward level around any incinerator. I have proof of that in letter to me from Justin McCarcken, CEO of Health Protection Agency following my FoI request.

Click here to view the full article and further comments from Mr. Ryan


  1. Dr.S.Prokop

    Please be less parochial and more internationalist.I propose you investigate the fully ratified WHO JAPANESE cancer statistics(they are fully available on the internet).The figures posted in 2005 show the trends since 1947.There is a big rise in all cancer mortality,and the colorectal group is now THE HIGHEST IN THE WORLD.
    Why is this relevant to you.Japan has had a very high dioxin load from the 1945 fire bombing of its cities and the national incinerator programme since the war.Its diet may have changed,but it is important to realise that its protectionist agricultrural policy means that its meat and dairy products have been home grown till recently.That is of course where the diioxin and heavy metal bioaccumulation issue comes in.Hiroshima and Nagasaki and its nuclear power stations complicate the issue,but any defence that the Japanese have some genetic predisposition can be ruled out as the population genes have been constant over the period of cancer rate rises.They themselves consider that they are in the midst of a “Cancer Era”,and are beefing up their medical treatment facilities.There exists a Japanese paper which proposes the hypothesis (fully worked out via QALYS and economics) that it is cheaper to treat the cancers than ontrol the dioxins!

  2. mr mcgill

    I’m disgusted to here about this plant,I thought devon was a green county so a incinerator built three miles away from my home in yealmpton would be the worst thing ever.Does the government now not stand with global warming

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