AN investigation into whether a cement plant is behind a rise in health problems in the area have discovered ‘significantly higher’ than average cancer rates in villages near the site.
Medical and environmental experts met in Mold last week to report on the progress of the probe into Hanson Cement’s Padeswood factory.
A report from the Public Health Wales Observatory detailed the health of people living around the site compared with the rest of Wales.
The report examined residents’ health in Mold, Buckley, Ewloe, Northop, Penyffordd, Higher Kinnerton, Hope, Caergwrle, Llanfynydd, Gwernymynydd, Gwernaffield and Treuddyn, among other areas.
And the results showed levels of cancer, respiratory disease and illness and death at a young age, as well as general ill health, were similar to or better than in the rest of Wales.
However Hope, Caergwrle and Llanfynydd proved to have a much higher level of cancer diagnosis than average.
The Welsh average of new incidences of cancer is 413 out of 100,000 people per year.
However Hope, Caergwrle and Llanfynydd have a rate of 497 per 100,000 people, while Northop has a rate of 470 per 100,000 and Mold, Buckley and Ewloe were also above average.
The villages are not immediately next to the factory and were not initially going to be included in the investigation, but were looked into after demands by concerned residents.
Dr Roland Salmon, a consultant epidemiologist with Public Health Wales, who presented the report, said: “Factors contributing to health are complex. Effects such as deprivation are known to make an impact.
“It is impossible for us to be able to determine why the number of cases may be higher in this particular area, and it is certainly far too early to say whether it is anything to do with the factory.
“Routine information suggests general health is good or better in the areas near the Hanson Cement works compared to that typical for Wales.
“Our investigations are not at a stage where we can make conclusions about the causes of cancer.
“There are many types of cancer and each of them is associated with different causes. More detailed work on cancer is already being undertaken.”
Andrew Jones, executive director of public health for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and chair of the investigation, said the next step would be a more in-depth study to investigate what environmental factors, if any, may have contributed to cancers.
“We will look at the area of concern in more detail and environmental factors such as wind direction and water course,” he said.
David Weeks, spokesman for Hanson Cement, said the results should reassure residents living nearby.
He said cancer clusters could be found around Wales and he wanted the investigation to progress quickly to prove the factory was not to blame for the higher than average rates in the three villages.
He added: “This is just another step in the process of reassuring people living around the site that they have nothing to fear from our operations.
“Hanson has been impressed by the thorough and even-handed way Public Health Wales has carried out its review, but we would like now to see a speedy resolution, so as not to cause unnecessary anxiety among local people.”
Another meeting will be held in the new year.