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MPs to meet Public Health Minister over Camelford water poisoning

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 20, 2013

  • Carole Cross: MPs to meet minister over Camelford water poisoning

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Cornwall MPs are to meet with Public Health Minister Anna Soubry tomorrow to press for help for victims of the 1988 Lowermoor water poisoning.

A long-awaited report into the long-term health effects of the incident which hit the Camelford area of North Cornwall almost 25 years ago was published last month.

The Government-appointed committee concluded it was "unlikely" that the pollution, caused when 20 tons of highly acidic aluminium sulphate was dumped directly into the water supply at the Lowermoor water treatment works on Bodmin Moor, had "caused delayed or persistent harm to health among local people".

But it admitted that gaps in scientific knowledge meant the effects on neurological health, the development of unborn babies at the time of the incident and those under a year old, warranted studies.

The committee, which was first set up in 2001, also recommended further analysis of cancer and mortality rates.

North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson, his predecessor Lord Tyler and Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton have secured a meeting with the Minister tomorrow.

Mr Rogerson said: "I have been contacted by several families and individuals who have been affected or think they may have been affected by the water-poisoning incident – after 25 years these people deserve answers about what really happened at the time, and about how the poisoning could be continuing to affect their health today.

"This report did not go far enough, as we suspected it wouldn't.

"I am determined to make sure that the people of North Cornwall finally get answers about which people in authority at the time were responsible for the cover-up that happened in the days following the contamination.

"I will also be making it clear to the minister that this Government must commit – as a matter of priority – to conduct the further scientific research and studies that the report suggests should now be carried out in order to get to the bottom of any long-term impact on the health of people that could have been exposed to the contaminated water."

The Lowermoor Sub Group of the Committee on Toxicity was set up by then-environment minister Michael Meacher in 2001 and a disputed draft report was published in 2005. The final version of the document was delayed by the inquest into the death of Carole Cross – the wife of Lowermoor campaigner Doug Cross – who died in 2004 aged 59 from a rare neurological disease usually associated with Alzheimer's.

West Somerset coroner Michael Rose concluded that there was a "very real possibility" that the ingestion of aluminium by Mrs Cross had contributed to her death.

Further concerns have been raised after the WMN revealed last week that Richard Gibbons, from Tintagel, had also been found to have "high levels" of aluminium in his brain. His death, at the age of 60 in 2010, is also being investigated by Mr Rose.

"The two people tested for brain aluminium levels, Carole Cross and now Richard Gibbons, have shown high levels of aluminium in their brain tissue," Phil Reed, Mr Gibbons' son-in-law, said. "We will continue to pursue the facts behind Richard's symptoms to establish if there is a chance the 1988 incident was responsible for them and as a consequence of the symptoms his death."

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  • P123Smit  |  May 20 2013, 3:59PM

    Dear kernow19 It is not helpful to call it the "Camelford Water Poisoning" ... after all 140+ square miles of water was contaminated all the way from almost Crackington Haven down to Rock and 7 miles inland. Better to call it the Lowermoor water Poisoning. As one of the two local reps on the recent flawed Committee on Toxicity 'report', it would be careless to ignore the many people who have been affected. That is the job of the department of health ... to ignore us, tell us to shut up and do their best to cover it up. Camelford and district's water is probably the best monitored in the South West; the current water need not worry visitors. Talk to anyone from upcountry or abroad and they feel that we have been VERY badly treated by the authorities. It wouldn't stop them from visiting this beautiful part of the world. They are not daft. So if anything needs to be let drop it is trotting out these old, tired chestnuts about putting off tourists. The community continues to suffer problems and it is only by exposing and ending this Department of Health cover-up that people will at least have half a chance of being properly examined and treated. Very young child born 19 years after the poisoning are showing health problems. Do not deny them the opportunity to receive the help they - and their families - deserve. Thank you

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  • youngcornwall  |  May 20 2013, 12:24PM

    In my opinion it should be kept at the forefront, keep bringing it up so nothing like this happens again. Tourism may be all important to Cornwall and elsewhere but health and safety should come first.

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  • kernow19  |  May 20 2013, 7:37AM

    Why is it this topic is brought to the fore every single year just as the holiday season is about to begin. Negative publicity like this for the area certainly won't benefit the tourism prospects. About time Camelford water was put to bed once and for all.