‘No evidence of any dust danger’

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HEALTH experts say there is no evidence to suggest people are more at risk of becoming ill as a result of industrial dust than in other areas of town.

People living on the Headland, in Hartlepool, say their lives have been plagued for 19 years from dust, created by works around Victoria Harbour, which is picked up in the air and deposited on their homes and cars.

They claim it has cost them thousands of pounds over the years to clean up, and led to serious health concerns.

But bosses at NHS Tees say health problems are down to the age of the population, levels of deprivation and high number of smokers as much as anything.

The issue has been the focus of two Hartlepool Borough Council scrutiny investigations and Professor Peter Kelly, executive director of public health for NHS Tees, presented his latest findings to councillors.

Prof Kelly said: “At this time I can find no evidence that there are adverse health effects on the Headland compared to other neighbouring wards in Hartlepool.

“There is always the possibility that there may be something but I have used all reasonable efforts to look at a wide range of illnesses and disease.”

Labour councillor Marjorie James said there was nothing to suggest that people living on the Headland were more at risk of falling ill than those living elsewhere.

Independent councillor Geoff Lilley added: “I accept the evidence but the dust is a significant nuisance factor to the people living on the Headland.”

Prof Kelly was asked to carry out research focusing on respiratory disease in children, mental health, asbestos related disease and cancer rates.

His latest report, titled ‘Health Profile of the Population Living in the Headland of Hartlepool’ found that:

l 40 per cent of the adult population in the St Hilda ward, which includes the Headland, smoke, 29 per cent are binge drinkers, 27 per cent are obese and only 12 per cent consume the recommended daily fruit and vegetables.

l There is no significant difference between St Hilda, Hartlepool and the North-East in terms of cancer rates.

l Hospital admissions for respiratory disease compare to the rest of Hartlepool.

l Lung cancer deaths have been declining for men, and have been stable for women across the North East, and there is no significant difference between St Hilda and the rest of Hartlepool.

The report concluded: “There is no indication of any excess ill health caused by environmental factors.”

The dust is suspected to come from scrap metal recycling firm Van Dalen, and representatives from the firm have previously said that during the loading of ships, crane operators on the dock are under strict instruction to lower their grabs as far down into the hold as possible and to not drop material from a great height onto stowed cargo.

They have also said that if there is a possibility of any prevailing winds or risk of dust becoming airborne then water is sprayed onto the stockpile.