Byline: GRACE McLEAN – COPYRIGHT 2001 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
THE quest for the truth behind a chemical cancer scare is being taken to the highest level of Scottish politics.
Shadow Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to ask questions in the Scottish Parliament about the alarming number of cancer cases in a tiny Fife town. And Chancellor Gordon Brown – MP for the area – has said is keeping tabs on the situation.
The Daily Record has revealed how five children in Cowdenbeath and neighbouring village Lochore have been diagnosed with cancer. Residents also claim there are higher-than-average numbers of bowel, cervical, breast and ovarian cancer cases among adults in the town. They blame a huge chemical plant owned by Shell and Exxon which sits on a hill three miles away from their homes.
Fife Health Board and the Scottish Executive have so far ignored residents’ calls for a public inquiry into the scandal. Now the SNP’s Sturgeon has joined locals in their fight for answers from the Government.
She said: “In cases where, certainly on the face of it, there is a link between a chemical plant and cancer rates, there must be a probe.
“Residents want to know if there is a link. If there is no connection, then the local health board should be able to put their minds at rest with figures to back up their claims.”
Dunfermline East MSP Helen Eadie has said she’ll meet with residents to establish how big the problem is.
She said: “The Record’s story was a terrible shock to us all. The possibility that emissions from a chemical plant might be a cause of cancer rates in the area is horrific, especially where children are concerned.”
Fife Health Board have denied there are a high number of cancer cases – despite having no separate figures for Cowdenbeath and surrounding villages.
Public health consultant Margaret Hannah could only give figures for the whole of Fife which were no larger than the Scottish average.
Cowdenbeath and Lochore have a population of 12,000, including 2000 kids.
On average across Britain, just one child in every 2000 gets cancer each year.
But the Record’s findings show that there are five children with cancer in the Fife area.
We also found just two air-quality checks are done at the plant yearly – and bosses know in advance about visits.
Readers have jammed our switchboard over the last two days with harrowing tales of more cancer cases.
The number of cancer victims in the area has soared to more than 120.
And a local nurse claimed bowel cancer is “rife”.
THE CANCER FILE
DAD-OF-TWO Donald Park has put up a brave battle against leukaemia after being told he had just two weeks to live.
His two young daughters, aged just three and 10, are forced to watch their once-healthy father waste away as the cancer takes hold.
Donald, 28, was told he had leukaemia in December and doctors predicted he had two to four weeks left with his precious children.
But, after six weeks of intensive chemotherapy, Donald has been given a 40 per cent chance of survival.
He and wife Agnes live in Cardenden, which lies within four miles of the chemical plant.
Agnes, 32, is just hoping the cancer will not rob her girls of their dad. She said: “All we can do is pray for a miracle.
“I hope the health experts will hold an inquiry into the issues surrounding the plant.
“I spoke to one of the local doctors in Cardenden and he said at least one in 35 of his patients has cancer. That’s amazing in a tiny wee town.
“I was quite surprised to see the story in the Record about the plant and cancer deaths but I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone noticed something. I know of six other people with cancer and they are not old folk either.
“Like Donald, they are all under the age of 50 and have their whole lives ahead of them.”
KEEN footballer Leonard Payne was only 24 when he died after developing a brain tumour.
His brother, Kevin, believes the Mossmorran plant could be to blame for his death because he spent five years working there.
Leonard, who lived in Ballingry, next to Cowdenbeath, was employed in maintenance at the complex when he fell ill in 1987.
Kevin, 34, said: “He was cut down in the prime of his life. I’d like regular checks to be carried out at the plant and an inquiry into whether there are any links with cancer.
“It looks strange that so many young people are dying of cancer in such a small area. Something is definitely amiss.
“I suppose people have known something is wrong for some time now and links with the plant are always in the back of your mind.
“You can see it flaming for miles at night and you have to wonder exactly what is coming out of those chimneys.
“Everyone knows there has to be some danger attached to a chemical plant of that size.”
COPYRIGHT 2001 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.