Infant mortality in wards near Hinkley Point:
response to SWPHO briefing No 3

 C.Busby, 8th March 2008, Green Audit Research Note 2008/3

South West Public Health Observatory published a response on their website to the Green Audit Study of infant mortality near Hinkley Point nuclear power station (Busby et al 2007). Their response, which is a short document gives separately infant (0-1 year) and perinatal (neonatal 0-18days + stillbirths) mortality in wards which are defined by SWPHO as Estuary or Non-Estuary aggregated over the period 1995 to 2006. SWHPO concluded that there were no significant differences between the Estuary and Non Estuary wards between 1995 and 2006 in either infant mortality or perinatal mortality. The Green Audit study, which SWHPO profess to be investigating found just under three times the infant mortality rate in the estuary wards relative to the inland wards.

The SWHPO document states that their analysis follows the Green Audit study. Since the official figures are available to both Green Audit and to SWPHO, it is difficult for the public or the media to understand how the two organisations can reach totally different conclusions. The answer is relatively simple. SWHPO used different wards to those used by Green Audit

  1. SWHPO used wards which did not exist before 1999, e.g. a process which they had earlier employed in a study of infant mortality and chemical exposure incidents and which SWPHO had submitted in 2007 to a major public health peer review journal. The journal editor sent it to me for review and I recommended rejection for the same reason that is in the present criticism. It is sloppy work; the paper they submitted made no mention of or allowance for ward boundary changes. In addition there were other major design problems with this SWHPO paper showing that the authors were not technically competent. This does not seem to have changed.
  2. SWHPO used a different time period 1995-2006 rather than the time period employed by Green Audit which was 1993-2005, with a focus on the earlier part (see below).
  3. The excess infant mortality risk identified by Green Audit was mainly from 1995-2001 and followed the releases of material from the nuclear plant, as the Green Audit paper makes this quite clear.
  4. Green Audit's infant mortality study was an attempt to further investigate the excess cancer and leukaemia risks found in earlier studies. The SWHPO analysis entirely ignores these cancer risk findings and deals with the infant mortality on its own, which is unacceptable for an organisation whose purpose is investigating public health.
  5. Access to stillbirth figures were blocked by ONS after 2002 so the prenatal mortality cannot be checked.
  6. In the discussion of infant deaths, SWHPO discuss cot deaths, an irrelevance, since the prior hypothesis is that the radiation exposures from Hinkley Point caused breast cancer increases, leukemia increases and infant mortality.
  7. It is clear that rather than addressing the serious evidence of harm in those living close to a nuclear site, and to investigate the specific findings of Green Audit, the SWHPO have devised a completely different study with the aim of fitting up the data in any way that will give them the ability to deny the evidence.

Figs 1 and 2 show the wards before and after 1998. The ward map shown on the SWHPO map on the website are the post 1999 wards. Ward risk maps given in the Green Audit paper clearly show the pre-1998 wards.

Fig 1 working map of pre-1998 wards used as basis for the Green Audit study

Fig 2 working map of post 1999 wards used for the Green Audit study. Not that this most approximates to the map shown in the SWPHO response on the website. Some wards, e.g. Knoll, did not exist for half of the study period (prior to 1999).




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