Infant mortality rates at electoral ward level around incinerators

Michael Ryan made this Freedom of Information request to Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT)

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

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT) should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT),

I've seen from this 2009 report that infant mortality rates are a major concern in Wolverhampton:

and wish to ask the following under the Freedom of Information Act:

1. Has your PCT examined infant mortality rates aggregated for the five-year period 2004-2008 in any adjacent council areas?

2. Has your PCT read the 2004 study by Dr Tango & others into infant deaths around 63 incinerators in Japan and 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."

3. Has your PCT any observations on the above study which failed to consider chimney height or wind direction?

4. Is your PCT aware that the Health Protection Agency (HPA) promised in August 2003 to examine health data around incinerators (articles in Daily Post, The Guardian, Western Daily Press - all 6 August 2003) - but failed to do so?

5. Is your PCT aware that the HPA advised that no studies be undertaken around incineratorsafter Paul Holmes MP asked these Parliamentary Questions:

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent assessment his Department has made of the effect on public health of emissions from a functioning incinerator; [302956]

(2) with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Lewes of 17 September 2007, Official Report, column 2209W, on infant mortality: incineration, what recent assessment his Department has made of the correlation between the presence of a functioning incinerator and the incidence of infant mortality in that area. [302957]

Here's the last part of the written reply of 30 November 2009 (Column 539W)

"The HPA also advised that studies of public health around modern, well managed municipal waste incinerators are not recommended, since any possible health effects are likely to be small."


6. Is your PCT aware that the Health Protection Agency have announced a study into "birth outcomes" around incinerators as seen in this press release of 24 January 2012:

7. Can your PCT provide any evidence that socio-economic status has a causal effect on infant mortality?

8. What are the 2004-2008 infant mortality rates in Wolverhampton's electoral wards?

9. Please provide copies of all correspondence your PCT has had with MPs, Councillors or the public regarding a link between incinerator emissions and infant mortality.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Ryan

Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT)

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Thank you for your request, please see attached acknowledgement


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Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT)

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Michael Ryan left an annotation ()

I've followed up the request with Dr Adrian Phillips, the Director of Public Health at Wolverhampton PCT and have had several e-mail exchanges.

Here's text of the one I sent on 5 September 2012 plus his to me which corrected an earlier one where he claimed that data had been purchased:

Dear Dr Phillips,

I've not asked for the numbers of infant deaths, but the rates per 1,000 live births in each ward.

The restriction on disclosure is for data where the number of infant deaths is lower than
five - as far as I'm aware and there are sure to be wards in Wolverhampton where there were
more than 5 infant deaths in the period 2004-2008.

Please send me a list of wards where there were more than five infant deaths recorded during the five-year period 2004-2008 together with the corresponding infant mortality rate.

If you fail to provide the above data, I shall refer the matter to the Information Commissioner to force disclosure.

Your PCT's report has already identified Tettenhall Wightwick ward as having had zero infant deaths in the period 2004-2008 and there's been some kind of "adjustment" of the infant mortality rates to
represent the data in terms of "years of life lost". I'd be grateful if you'd kindly give the details of how the infant mortality data were changed into years of life lost. It might be related to socio-economic status or some other subjective factor which is so handy for putting spin on scientific matters - thereby misleading the public.

You mentioned that you'd compared the infant mortality rate in Wolverhampton with peer authorities and after the PQ by Sandra Gidley MP (Hansard, 20 December 2005; Column 2799W) led to the release
of infant mortality numbers and rates for each of the 303 PCTs in England for the years 2002, 2003 & 2004.

Baby Charity BLISS must issued a press release which led to various articles, eg:

The Sun newspaper listed the PCTs with the ten highest & ten lowest 2002-2004 infant mortality rates and I saw that the
ten PCTs with highest infant mortality rates were all exposed to incinerator emissions - whilst the ten PCTs with lowest rates
were all free from such emissions. Hardly a coincidence?

Wolverhampton City PCT's position is just outside the "top ten" with a 2002-2004 infant mortality rate of 7.9 per 1,000 live births.

I've e-mailed you over this issue as you are in a position to either speak out and help stop the needless carnage and misery - or do nothing and let it continue.

Remember that plenty of people have been wrongly convicted of killing babies and even more parents have had surviving children
"taken into care" on suspicion that they might have been involved in the death of an infant.

Brum babies 8 times more likely to die - Factbox
Sun , The (London, England) - Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Readability: >12 grade level (Lexile: 1440L)
Author: Emma Morton, Health Reporter
Postcode lottery scandal

TOTS born in Birmingham are EIGHT TIMES more likely to die before their first birthday than those in Surrey.

Shocking new statistics reveal a postcode lottery in baby death rates across the whole of the UK.

Many of the fatalities are linked to a lack of care for premature babies .Two out of three of these children die before they are one due to health problems linked to an early birth.

But with the help of specialist hospital equipment and care from trained medics and nurses, many could survive. Baby care charity BLISS, who released the figures, is demanding urgent Government action to tackle the problem.

The highest death rates are in poorer parts of the country like the Midlands and West Yorkshire. The UK average infant death rate is 5.2 per 1,000 births. But in Birmingham, Bradford, and North Kirklees, West Yorks, the ratio is TWICE that figure.

In Surrey, Devon and Suffolk fatalities are HALF the national average.

BLISS chief executive Rob Williams told The Sun : "We urge the Government to commit to keeping the target to reduce inequalities in infant mortality rates by ten per cent under its 2007 spending review."


1 Central Birmingham.. 12.4 ( deaths per 1,000 births)

2 North Kirklees11.2

3 Central Bradford10.4

4 East Birmingham9.2

5 Central Manchester8.6

6 South East Sheffield8.4

7 Nottingham City8.3

8 Coventry8.2

9 Southwark8.1

10 Newham7.9


1 East Elmbridge and Mid Surrey1.5

2 East Devon1.8

3 Central Suffolk1.9

4 South Somerset2.2

5 Chiltern and Sth Bucks2.2

6 Hertsmere2.4

7 Mid-Hampshire2.4

8 Melton, Rutland and Harborough2.6

9 Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale2.6

10 Maldon2.7

Yours sincerely,

Michael Ryan

To: Michael Ryan
Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2012 09:53:21 +0100
Subject: RE: False reply (dated 31 August 2012) to my FoI request to your PCT

Mr Ryan

We get the Public Health Birth File from ONS. Temporarily the ONS are not charging for this as it is being funded separately, but we are uncertain whether this will persist

Adrian Phillips
Director of Public Health

Please note my e-mail has changed to

Michael Ryan left an annotation ()

Dr Phillips has e-mailed me a table of data showing the numbers of infant deaths and the infant mortality rates in eleven of the 21 electoral wards.

No data was disclosed for ward where there were fewer than five infant deaths in the period 2004-2008.

The only remaining part that's not been disclosed is how the 2004-2008 infant mortality rates for the wards are changed into "years of life lost".

Here's my latest e-mail to Dr Phillips, sent at 14:18 today:

Dear Dr Phillips,

Thank you for the table of data.

You've not yet disclosed how the infant mortality data was transposed into
"years of life lost". I hope you can send me the methodology for that very soon.

I've looked again at an electoral ward map of Wolverhampton and the location of the incinerator in Bushbury South & Low Hill ward and calculated the average 2004-2008 infant mortality rate for the following cluster of five wards and found it to be the exceptionally high figure of 10.9 per 1,000 live births.

Bushbury South & Low Hill: 7.8 per 1,000 live births (home to Crown Street incinerator)
Bushbury North: 9.4 per 1,000 (adjacent to the "incinerator ward")
St Peter's: 15.0 per 1,000 (adjacent to the "incinerator ward")
Heath Town: 8.5 per 1,000 (adjacent to the "incinerator ward")
Fallings Park: 13.8 per 1,000 (adjacent to the "incinerator ward")

The above five wards had a total of 52 infant deaths recorded in the five-year period 2004-2008 and I doubt if any of the families or friends of any mother who has had to bury an infant would call the numbers "extremely small".

When I made the FoI request, I was concerned that exposure to incinerator emissions was a driving factor for infant mortality in Wolverhampton and the data that you've provided shows that such a factor cannot be discounted and needs to be carefully considered.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan left an annotation ()

I'm sorry to report that Dr Phillips seems unwilling to disclose the methodology for altering infant mortality rates (which are indisputable facts) to "years of life lost", which must involve some kind of subjective judgement on how long a baby born in a particular electoral ward might be expected to live. I'd earlier e-mailed Dr Phillips data from London Boroughs showing that after Battersea Power Station closed in 1983 there was a fall in the infant mortality rates in London Boroughs, including Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets. After SELCHP incinerator started, the infant death rates rose in Lewisham (home to SELCHP) and also in Newham (downwind of SELCHP with south-west wind) but the infant death rates continued to fall in "deprived" Tower Hamlets Borough, which was free from SELCHP emissions most of the time.

Here's the most recent e-mail exchange with Dr Phillips, my e-mail being sent this morning (10 September 2012):

Dear Dr Phillips,

You are being obstructive on what should be a very simple matter.

I've asked for the methodology used whereby infant mortality rates, which have been aggregated for the five years 2004-2008, have been "adjusted" to be transposed into "years of life lost".

I don't want a statement such as "I've adjusted for socio-economic status", I want the precise methodology as applied to the 21 electoral wards in Wolverhampton.

It's likely that the number of infant deaths must be one of the terms within whatever "mathematical" device has been employed - otherwise Tettenhall Wightwick couldn't have been assigned zero years of life lost.

Remember that I e-mailed you infant mortality data at Borough level in London showing downward shift after shut-down of Battersea Power Station and a subsequent rise in infant mortality rates after SELCHP incinerator started operating in the Boroughs most exposed to SELCHP emissions. Those changes aren't "explainable" by socio-economic status - are they?

Yours sincerely,

Michael Ryan

To: Michael Ryan
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2012 10:00:48 +0100
Subject: RE: False reply (dated 31 August 2012) to my FoI request to your PCT

Mr Ryan

The methodology is my annual reports which is available on many Wolverhampton web sites and is thus freely available.

Adrian Phillips
Director of Public Health

Please note my e-mail has changed to

Michael Ryan left an annotation ()

The email account I've used to challenge Wolverhampton PCT over this issue has been shut down without my consent.

Michael Ryan left an annotation ()

The SELCHP incinerator in the London Borough of Lewisham started in 1993.

The infant mortality rates in Boroughs of Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Wandsworth were all falling at the same rate prior to SELCHP.

After SELCHP, the infant death rates in the three "exposed" Boroughs of Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Newham stopped falling, whilst the rate in "upwind" Wnadsworth Borough continued to fall.

Michael Ryan left an annotation ()

I've written to my MP about the incinerator issue today (4 Feb 2013) as follows:

Dear Mr Kawczysnki,

Here's links to the Private Eye article "Sins of emission" and also to last week's Big Issue in the North article (“Waste incinerators: off the (Johnny) Ball incident”) as well as to the written replies of 18 & 22 January 2013 to the two "incinerator-related" PQs by Lyn Brown MP.

I e-mailed both Ms Lyn and also Sir Robin Wales (Mayor of Newham) on 4 Jan 2013 and have pasted-in that e-mail below.

This is an issue which needs to be publicised widely in Shropshire as the health of those who'll be exposed to emissions from the Harlescott incinerator will be adversely affected - just as I made very clear at the Shrewsbury incinerator public inquiry in 2011.

Kind regards,

Michael Ryan

From: Michael Ryan
To: Lyn Brown MP <>; Sir Robin Wales <>
Cc: Andy Love MP <>; "" <>
Sent: Friday, 4 January 2013, 11:21
Subject: Fw: The SELCHP infant mortality scandal exposed with recently released ONS data

Dear Ms Brown and Sir Robin,

As Newham is affected by SELCHP emissions, I thought you'd both be interested in the recently released ONS data.

"Deprivation" is a wonderful excuse for high infant death rates but the graph in this link shows that it's a red herring:

Kate Green MP is rightly concerned about adverse health effects of proposed biomass plant in Trafford.

Andy Love MP has Edmonton incinerator in his constituency.

Kind regards,

Michael Ryan