Western Daily Press, BY NICHOLA JONES, 6th March 2008

Claims there has been a threefold rise in the number of infant deaths downwind of Hinkley Point nuclear power station have been dismissed by the region's health experts.

Results of a study by anti-nuclear group Green Audit, last week, have been branded "misleading" by Dr Julia Verne, director of the South West Public Health Observatory in Bristol .

The Observatory, which monitors the health of the population in the South West, has found no evidence of increased infant mortality in the area.

Examining deaths from 1995 to 2006, it found between zero and three deaths in any one ward in Somerset in any one year. The infant death rates were no higher than would be expected as a result of random fluctuations.

Asked whether she had observed a link between infant death rates in Burnham, Highbridge and the wards around Hinkley, Dr Verne said: "We have undertaken our own statistical analysis of infant deaths - looking around Hinkley Point, the mud flats and the tidal River Parrett, and we have found no significant increase.

"This data has been examined over a long period of time.

"When looking at local infant deaths, they have only ever been in very low numbers, but even small changes in the geographic area where numbers are reviewed can have significant effects upon the interpretation of the statistics and this in turn can easily lead to misleading or even false conclusions."

The Green Audit study was compiled by Dr Chris Busby who said figures between 1996 and 2001 showed the death rate in children under 12 months old was 10 per 1,000 compared with 3.5 per 1,000 further inland.

A spokesman for the Stop Hinkley campaign said: "The risk of this occurring by chance is one in 5,000.

"It adds weight to the theory that dangerous radioactive particles discharged into the sea and air at Hinkley are ingested by residents downwind from the power station and mudflats."


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