UK Water Toxicity Questions Remain

Jan. 31, 2005

Nearly 17 years after the tragedy, long-term effects of Britain's worst water poisoning disaster remain a mystery, according to a report published last week.

Three years ago, an independent inquiry began into the 1988 contamination of water supplies to 20,000 people in Camelford, North Cornwall.

A tanker driver poured 20 tons of toxic aluminium sulphate into the wrong tank at a water treatment works at the Lowermoor water works near Bodmin.

Since then, local residents have reported a variety of symptoms from brain damage to joint problems.

The third and latest report into the health effects of the incident, described by the Department of Health as the most comprehensive yet, was ordered by former environment minister Michael Meacher in 2001.

Chaired by Professor Frank Woods of Sheffield University, the group included experts in toxicology and child health, as well as local representatives.

Based on many interviews, the 400-page draft report concluded it unlikely that the chemicals involved in the incident would have caused any delayed or persistent health effects.

No conclusive link was found between the incident and the chronic symptoms and diseases.

However, the group did recommend that further research be done on developmental effects of those under the age of one at the time of the incident.

The incidence of diseased joints in the affected area should also be investigated, as well as the effect of contaminants on neurological health.

There will be a 12-week consultation period for the report and a public meeting will be held in Camelford on Feb. 17.

Source: BBC News