Inquiry into spray cancer claims
Wednesday, 7 December 2005
Cadmium chemical was sprayed over Norwich in the 1960s
The effects of cadmium spraying over a city in the 1960s are to be investigated after claims that it was linked with cancer of the oesophagus.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb was told of the decision by the Department of Health after he tabled questions to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.
"There are many concerns about the possible effect of cadmium spraying in Norwich and the cancer," Mr Lamb said.
Cadmium powder was sprayed over part of the city during weapons testing.
The investigation will involve the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the local Primary Care Trust, the Cancer Registry and the local Public Health Observatory.
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health Caroline Flint informed Mr Lamb of the investigation, adding: "I am advised that it is unlikely the zinc cadmium sulphide dispersion trials have resulted in any long term health effects."
Campaigners claim that Norwich has a higher number of cases of cancer of the oesophagus than the national average.
Peter Brambleby, director of public health at the Norwich Primary Care Trust denies this and is on record as saying that he could find "no link between the spraying and this cancer".
He said: "My examination of the most up-to-date data for Norwich shows a low incidence and lower than expected incidence of oesophageal cancer."
But earlier this year Mr Wyn Parry, a consultant at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and a specialist in oesophageal cancer, said more research was needed on this type of cancer.
"I see patients across Norfolk and we would expect to see between 120 and 130 cases (national average) but we are seeing between 170 and 180. Perhaps 50% more than the national population."
A small quantity of cadmium was sprayed over parts of the city as part of a Ministry of Defence experiment on chemical dispersal.
The Ministry of Defence said the experiment, which its scientists say was safe, was to "simulate the airborne dissemination" of biological warfare agents in the air.