Incinerator emissions linked to high infant mortality rates

Michael Ryan made this Freedom of Information request to Dudley Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Dudley Council did not have the information requested.

Dear Dudley Council,

I should be grateful for the following information:

1. What evidence has Dudley Council got that persuades it that there’s no adverse health effects from the Lister Road incinerator?

The opinion of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) isn’t “evidence” as that organization, despite promising in August 2003 to examine health data around incinerators, didn’t bother to do so and has also ignored or overlooked the study by Dr Tango and others (J Epidemiol. 2004 May;14(3):83-93.) into infant deaths around 63 incinerators in Japan which concluded:

“Our study shows a peak-decline in risk with distance from the municipal solid waste incinerators for infant deaths and infant deaths with all congenital malformations combined.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15242...

The HPA’s press release of 24 January 2012 promises a study into “birth outcomes” around incinerators:

http://www.hpa.org.uk/NewsCentre/Nationa...

2. Has Dudley Council examined infant mortality rates at electoral ward level in Dudley and Sandwell as the data will show elevated rates in wards exposed to incinerator emissions?

3. If Dudley Council has not examined infant mortality rates at electoral ward level, are there any proposals to examine such data?

4. How many employees at Dudley Council are Members of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health?

5. What action has been taken by the Environmental Health Department or Dudley Council to protect the residents of Dudley and Sandwell following the article “Something disturbing in the air” (25 June 2005) in the Journal of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, which starts:

“Fine particles measuring 2.5µ or less (PM2.5s) have been linked to a number of diseases because of their ability to enter deep into the lung. PM2.5s are released into the atmosphere when oil and solvent-based fuel mixes are burnt in industrial processes such as smelting, metals processing and by waste energy plants and incinerators. In the last 10 years, say experts, they have risen ‘astronomically’ in the UK.
Dr Dick van Steenis, an independent UK-based toxicology researcher, claims anything smaller than PM3 is capable of penetrating the lung where it causes serious health problems. PM2.5s containing heavy metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides, radioactivity and electromagnetic charges can lead to cancers, asthma, allergies, type 2 diabetes, birth defects, brain damage, immune system problems, heart disease, autism and multiple sclerosis, he says. Insoluble PM2.5s build up in the lung and can potentially cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, suffered by one-in-10 UK 20-year-olds.”… continues

http://www.cieh.org/ehn/ehn3.aspx?id=231...

Yours faithfully,

Michael Ryan

Administrator,

Dear Michael Ryan,

Freedom Of Information Act 2000 - Information Request DMBCIR:6874
Description : Incinerator emissions linked to high infant mortality rates

I acknowledge your request for information received on 2012-09-05
08:39:00.

Your request is being considered and you will receive the information
requested within the statutory timescale of 20 working days (Freedom of
Information Act 2000/Environmental Information Regulations) or 40 calendar
days (Data Protection access requests).

For your information, the Acts and Regulations define a number of
exemptions which may prevent release of the information you have
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Yours sincerely,

The Information Governance Team
Council House
Priory Road
Dudley
West Midlands
DY1 1HF
[Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council request email]

Administrator,

Dear Michael Ryan,

Freedom Of Information Act 2000 - Information Request DMBCIR:6874
Description : Incinerator emissions linked to high infant mortality rates

I acknowledge your request for information received on 2012-09-05
08:39:00.

Your request is being considered and you will receive the information
requested within the statutory timescale of 20 working days (Freedom of
Information Act 2000/Environmental Information Regulations) or 40 calendar
days (Data Protection access requests).

For your information, the Acts and Regulations define a number of
exemptions which may prevent release of the information you have
requested. There will be an assessment and if any of the exemption
categories apply then the information may not be released. In some
circumstances the decision to release information, or not, will be based
on a public interest test. You will be advised of any considerations,
subsequent decisions and your rights of appeal.

If the information you request contains reference to a third party then
they may be consulted prior to a decision being taken on whether or not to
release the information to you. You will be informed if this is the case,
including your rights of appeal.

Unless otherwise requested the information may be provided in paper copy,
normal font size. If you require alternative formats, e.g. language,
audio, large print, etc. then please let me know.

There may be a fee payable for this information. This will be considered
and you will be informed if a fee is payable. In this event the fee must
be paid before the information is processed and released. The 20 working
day time limit for responses is suspended until receipt of the payment.

If you have any queries or concerns then please contact the Information
Governance Officer at Dudley MBC, The Council House, Dudley, West
Midlands, DY1 1HF, telephone 01384 818181, e-mail
[Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council request email] .

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Most of the information that we provide in response to Freedom of
Information/Environmental Information requests will be subject to
copyright protection. In most cases the copyright will be owned by Dudley
MBC. The copyright in other information may be owned by another person or
organisation, as indicated in the information itself. You are free to use
any information supplied for your own use, including for non-commercial
research purposes. The information may also be used for the purposes of
news reporting. However, any other type of re-use, for example, by
publishing the information or issuing copies to the public will require
the permission of the copyright owner.

For information where the copyright is owned by the Council details of the
conditions on re-use can be found on our website at www.dudley.gov.uk.

For information where the copyright is owned by another person or
organisation, you must apply to the copyright owner to obtain their
permission.

Yours sincerely,

The Information Governance Team
Council House
Priory Road
Dudley
West Midlands
DY1 1HF
[Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council request email]

Ajaib Paul, Dudley Council

Dear Michael Ryan,

Environmental Information Regulations 2004 - Information Request 6874

Your request for information received on 05/09/2012 has now been
considered and the information requested is as below:

1. What evidence has Dudley Council got that persuades it that there’s no
adverse health effects from the Lister Road incinerator?

The HPA have been asked for a comment on the issue of health effects from
the Lister Road Incinerator as per below:

The HPA published its updated position statement on municipal waste
incinerations in September 2009 ([1]The Impact on Health of Emissions to
Air from Municipal Waste Incinerators - RCE 13).  This statement concluded
that modern, well managed incinerators make only a small contribution to
local concentrations of air pollutants.  It is possible that such small
additions could have an impact on health but such effects, if they exist,
are likely to be very small and not detectable (particularly not with
available collected data).

 
Nevertheless, the issue remains one of public concern and the HPA is
committed to expand the evidence base on this subject.  The HPA has agreed
to fund a multi-site study of birth outcomes around municipal waste
incinerators currently operating in England and Wales.  This study will be
undertaken by researchers at the Small Area Health Statistics Unit
(SAHSU), Imperial College London and the Environmental Research Group,
King’s College London, both part of the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and
Health.  The study will examine whether there is a potential link between
emissions from municipal waste incinerators and health outcomes such as
low birth weight, still births, infant deaths and congenital anomalies. In
funding and supporting this study, HPA has not changed its position that
well run and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators are not a
significant risk to public health.  However, we are pleased to be involved
in a scientific study to improve the evidence base on this topic.

2. Has Dudley Council examined infant mortality rates at electoral ward
level in Dudley and Sandwell as the data will show elevated rates in wards
exposed to incinerator emissions?

Dudley Council would not be the most appropriate authority to study and
interpret health data such as infant mortality, when health agencies such
as PCTs lead on strategies to address the complex factors that need to be
considered to reduce infant mortality, including those related to
socio-economic deprivation.

These interventions include those relating to smoking cessation, screening
services, mental health provision, infant nutrition, maternal obesity and
reducing teenage conceptions. 

3. If Dudley Council has not examined infant mortality rates at electoral
ward level, are there any proposals to examine such data?
See response above

4. How many employees at Dudley Council are Members of the Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health?
x25

5. What action has been taken by the Environmental Health Department or
Dudley Council to protect the residents of Dudley and
Sandwell following the article “Something disturbing in the air” (25 June
2005) in the Journal of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health,
which starts:

The article referred to below includes the answer to this question after
the quotation used in the enquiry. PM2.5 is a matter to be addressed
internationally by the EU & then to be transposed into the home
legislation of each EU member country, not an issue to be regulated at a
local level by individual local authroities.

[2]http://www.cieh.org/ehn/ehn3.aspx?id=231...

If you have any queries or concerns then please contact me.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a comment or complaint, or request a review of
the decision, you should write to the Environmental Information
Regulations Officer at Dudley MBC, The Council House, Dudley, West
Midlands, DY1 1HF, telephone 01384 818181, e-mail
[Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council request email].  This can also be done online at: 
[3]http://www.dudley.gov.uk/customer-feedback

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.  Generally, the
ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints
procedure provided by Dudley MBC.

The Information Commissioner may be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow 
Cheshire 
SK9 5AF
Telephone:   01625 545 700
[4]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

Most of the information that we provide in response to Environmental
Information Regulations  2004 requests will be subject to copyright
protection.  In most cases the copyright will be owned by Dudley MBC.  The
copyright in other information may be owned by another person or
organisation, as indicated in the information itself.  You are free to use
any information supplied for your own use, including for non-commercial
research purposes.  The information may also be used for the purposes of
news reporting.  However, any other type of re-use, for example, by
publishing the information or issuing copies to the public will require
the permission of the copyright owner.

For information where the copyright is owned by the Council details of the
conditions on re-use can be found on our website at [5]www.dudley.gov.uk.

For information where the copyright is owned by another person or
organisation, you must apply to the copyright owner to obtain their
permission.

Yours sincerely,

                                                                   
Ajaib S. Paul (AJ)
Executive Support Officer

Directorate of Urban Environment (DUE)
Executive Support Team
Tel: 01384 81 4410
Email: [email address]
                                                                   
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References

Visible links
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2. http://www.cieh.org/ehn/ehn3.aspx?id=231...
3. http://www.dudley.gov.uk/customer-feedback
4. file://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk
5. file://www.dudley.gov.uk

Michael Ryan left an annotation ()

The response shows how Dudley Council has no interest in dealing with this matter.

I'm not surprised at the response and had made another FoI request to Dudley Primary Care Trust on the same issue and have had an unsatisfactory reply from them.

Dudley PCT have looked at the infant mortality rates at electoral ward level but failed to disclose them.

Here's the text of the e-mail sent to Dudley PCT on 6 September 2012

Michael Ryan
To foi@dudley.nhs.uk
Dear Sir or Madam,

I should be grateful if you'd supply the following under the Freedom of Information Act:

1. Any comments or observations made by the PCT regarding the variation of infant mortality rates at electoral ward
level in Dudley and surrounding Council areas with different levels of exposure to combustion emissions from
the incinerator in Lister Road, Dudley.

2. The infant mortality rates in each of the electoral wards in Dudley, aggregated for the five years 2004-2008.

3. The names of the electoral wards which used to be in:

a) Dudley Beacon & Castle PCT

b) Dudley South PCT

4. Any comments or observations on the forthcoming study into "birth outcomes" around existing incinerators:

http://www.hpa.org.uk/NewsCentre/Nationa...

5. Any comments or observations on the study by Dr Tango & others into infant deaths around 63 incinerators in Japan which concluded:

“Our study shows a peak-decline in risk with distance from the municipal solid waste incinerators for infant deaths

and infant deaths with all congenital malformations combined.”

6. Any evidence that demonstrates a causal link between infant mortality and socio-economic status, or "deprivation".

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15242...

Yours faithfully,

Michael Ryan

Dear Dudley Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Dudley Council's handling of my FOI request 'Incinerator emissions linked to high infant mortality rates'.

In my request, I made it clear that the Health Protection Agency (HPA) hadn't bothered to check relevant data around any incinerator and yet you've contacted them and repeated their worthless opinion.

In 2008, I made a Freedom of Information request to the HPA and that's how I know that they'd not checked relevant data around incinerators.

I asked "What evidence has Dudley Council got that persuades it that 
there’s no adverse health effects from the Lister Road incinerator?" and have not received an adequate response.

It seems that the answer to my question 1 should be:
"We have seen no evidence that suggests that emissions from Lister Road incinerator are not, and have not been harming human health."

If the above is correct, please write a response stating clearly that yo have no evidence. If it's incorrect, please provide the evidence of "lack of harm".

The answer to question 2 is ambiguous as there's no indication of whether or not Dudley Primary Care Trust have been contacted about the infant mortality rates at electoral ward level. It would have taken a few minutes to contact Dudley PCT and they would have been sure to have informed you that I'd made a request to them for infant mortality data at electoral ward level.

The overall response to my request to Dudley Council suggests that you have no interest whatsoever in the adverse health impacts of incinerator emissions and are waiting for some other agency to alert you to such hazards.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/in...

Yours faithfully,

Michael Ryan

Information Governance, Dudley Council

Dear Mr Ryan,

Environmental Information Regulations Request Review – Ref: 6874

Further to your email dated the 3^rd October 2012 requesting a review of
the original response to the above request.

Your review request has now been considered and the outcome is detailed
below.

The Environmental Information Regulations provide you with a right to
access Environmental Information held by the Local Authority, or on behalf
of the authority. 

Your original request contained 5 specific questions; I have considered
how each of these was originally responded to and provided further
comment/information where necessary:

1. What evidence has Dudley Council got that persuades it that there’s no
adverse health effects from the Lister Road incinerator?

I accept that Mr Paul’s original response highlighted the HPA position
with regards to this matter.  This is the evidence source that the Council
has drawn from.  At a local level and in specific answer to your question,
the response may have been more accurately communicated as “No information
held”.  Please also see comment below.

2. Has Dudley Council examined infant mortality rates at electoral ward
level, are there any proposals to examine such data?

Your original question can be interpreted as simply requiring either a
“yes” or “no” response as opposed to a request for Environmental
information held by the Council.  However, Mr Paul did provide a relevant
response.

Whilst the original response is quite clear that; “Dudley Council would
not be the most appropriate authority to study and interpret health
data….”. I have received confirmation that we have not examined any infant
mortality rates at electoral ward level in Dudley in relation to your
question.  Officers from the Council’s Policy & Research Team have further
qualified this by commenting that:

“Any such examination in relation to the location of the incinerator would
require people with a greater level of health expertise.  If data did show
that infant mortality was statistically significantly higher in certain
wards the factors that contribute to this will no doubt be many and
complex, and that higher levels of infant mortality cannot be solely
attributed to one factor.  When the Council receives queries about the
effects on health from external environmental factors we consult with the
HPA.  We do not therefore have any evidence to suggest adverse health
effects from the emissions from the incinerator and so asked HPA to
comment”.

3.  If Dudley Council has not examined infant mortality rates at electoral
ward level, are there any proposals to examine such data?

Your original question can be interpreted as simply requiring either a
“yes” or “no” response as opposed to a request for Environmental
information held by the Council.  However, following your request; Dudley
Council will ask NHS Dudley to provide infant mortality rates at electoral
ward level in Dudley and also ask for an interpretation of that data.

4.  How many employees at Dudley Council are Members of the Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health?

A specific response was provided to this question.

5.  What action has been taken by the Environmental Health Department or
Dudley Council to protect residents of Dudley and Sandwell…….

Whilst there is no local information held in relation to this question, Mr
Paul’s response does highlight that this; “is a matter to be addressed
internationally by the EU & then to be transposed into the home
legislation of each EU member country, not an issue to be regulated at a
local level by individual local authorities.”

In conclusion,  the Council has provided you with all the information held
that relates to your questions.  The Council does take the health of
individuals seriously and will endeavour to put in place appropriate
measures to meet the requirements of any regulations when developed and
where it is necessary to protect public health.

I hope this will help with your enquiry.  If you are not content with the
outcome of your request for a review, you may apply directly to the
Information Commissioner for a decision.

The Information Commissioner may be contacted at:

Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Telephone:  01625 545 700
[1]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

L J Bourne
Freedom of Information Officer

This Email and any attachments contains confidential information and is
intended solely for the individual to whom it is addressed. If this Email
has been misdirected, please notify the author as soon as possible. If you
are not the intended recipient you must not disclose, distribute, copy,
print or rely on any of the information contained, and all copies must be
deleted immediately. Whilst we take reasonable steps to try to identify
any software viruses, any attachments to this e-mail may nevertheless
contain viruses which our anti- virus software has failed to identify. You
should therefore carry out your own anti-virus checks before opening any
documents. Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council will not accept any
liability for damage caused by computer viruses emanating from any
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Michael Ryan left an annotation ()

This response is unsatisfactory as it shows the lack of interest shown by Dudley Council in an issue which affects the lives of many people.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) have failed to keep their promise (reported on 6 August 2003 in Daily Post, Guardian, & Western Daily Press) to check health data around incinerators. The HPA also failed to act after the study of infant deaths around 63 incinerators in Japan concluded:

“Our study shows a peak-decline in risk with distance from the municipal solid waste incinerators for infant deaths and infant deaths with all congenital malformations combined.”
(J Epidemiol. 2004 May;14(3):83-93.)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15242...

The HPA's promised study into "birth outcomes" around incinerators may never be published:

http://www.hpa.org.uk/NewsCentre/Nationa...

In Saginaw (Michigan), they mapped infant death rates at census tract level and Dawn Shanafelt's quote below highlights the difference between Dudley & Saginaw.

"Infant deaths are a barometer for the health of the entire community," said Dawn Shanafelt, community health section supervisor for the Saginaw County Health Department. "If we can't protect our babies, we have a huge problem."

http://www.mlive.com/living/saginaw/inde...

Dudley is one of six West Midlands Councils on this map which shows the 2004-2008 infant mortality rates at electoral ward level.

The electoral ward with the highest infant death rate (17.9 per 1,000 live births) is downwind of Dudley incinerator in Sandwell.

http://ukhr.eu/incineration/westmidlandm...

The Information Commissioner was sent a copy of the above map in respect of the failure of another public body to comply with a Freedom of Information request.

Dudley Council might have read about the written reply (20 December 2005) to the Parliamentary Question by Sandra Gidley MP who had requested infant mortality data at Primary Care Trust (PCT) level. The Office for National Statistics released the numbers of infant deaths and also the infant mortality rates for each of the 303 PCTs in England for each of the years 2002-2004. Baby Charity BLISS issued this press release and listed ten PCTs with highest infant death rates after averaging the infant death rates for 2002-2004:

http://www.bliss.org.uk/2006/03/28/top-t...

Earlier this year, the "What do they know?" website obtained the re-release of the data orginally sent to Ms Gidley and that data showed that BLISS had made some serious errors, including the fact that there were twenty (not ten) PCTs with 2002-2004 infant death rates of at least 7.9 per 1,000 live births.

I'll list them here and draw Dudley's attention to the facts that:

Two PCTs (Rowley Regis & Tipton, and Oldbury & Smethwick)) are downwind of Dudley incinerator.

Wolverhampton City, Coventry, Doncaster, South East Sheffield, Eastern Birmingham, Nottingham City, South Stoke, and Bradford City Teaching all had incinerators within their areas.

The NHS and Birmingham City appear unwilling to consider Tyseley incinerator as having an impact on infant mortality:

http://www.birminghampost.net/news/2008/...

http://www.birminghammail.net/news/local...

http://www.ukhr.eu/incineration/tyseley....

Newham is downwind of SELCHP incinerator.

Southwark is sandwiched between SELCHP and the incinerator at Kings College Hospital.

North Kirklees is downwind of Kirklees incinerator:

http://www.ukhr.eu/incineration/kirklees...

PCT 2002-2004 IMRs
Heart of Birmingham Teaching 12.4
North Kirklees 11.2
Bradford City Teaching 10.4
South Stoke 9.9
North Bradford 9.4
Eastern Birmingham 9.2
Doncaster Central 8.9
North Stoke 8.8
Central Manchester 8.6
Preston 8.5
South East Sheffield 8.4
North Birmingham 8.4
Nottingham City 8.3
Oldbury & Smethwick 8.3
North Manchster 8.2
Coventry 8.2
Rowley Regis & Tipton 8.2
Southwark 8.1
Wolverhampton City 7.9
Newham 7.9