Councillors back Headland dust findings

SENIOR councillors want to draw a line under the controversial issue of whether people run the risk of becoming ill as a result of industrial dust.

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 after numerous studies, health experts say there is no evidence to suggest that people are more at risk of becoming ill as a result of industrial dust than in other areas of Hartlepool.

Speaking at a Hartlepool Borough Council scrutiny forum meeting in February, Professor Peter Kelly, executive director of public health for NHS Tees, said health problems are down to the age of the population, levels of deprivation and high number of smokers as much as anything.

Now senior councillors on the cabinet committee have backed the report.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash, former chairman of the council’s health scrutiny committee, said the process had looked in great detail at the concerns raised when the issue was discussed during a meeting of the council’s cabinet committee.

Coun Brash, portfolio holder for performance, said: “It has dealt with some genuine and real concerns from residents and it has resulted in a huge amount of work from the director of public health.

“He concluded that there are no health implications from the dust that is produced on the Headland.

“The conclusions are very clear and I would say unarguable.”

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

His report found that 40 per cent of the adult population in the St Hilda ward, which includes the Headland, smoke.

While 29 per cent are binge drinkers, 27 per cent are obese and only 12 per cent consume the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables.

The report found that there is also no significant difference between the ward and the North-East in terms of cancer rates.

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

Previous council meetings heard the dust is suspected to come from scrap metal recycling firm Van Dalen.

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.

Water is also sprayed onto the stockpile during windy conditions.