Cancer risk high – is it linked to old clinical waste incinerators?

Residents in a street in Aylesbury are fearful that they are living in what has been dubbed ‘cancer street’.

Families are living in fear of developing cancer on a housing estate just yards from a hospital after seeing loved ones and neighbours struck down by the disease. So far, a total of 15 people living in 22 homes around a green have died while another six have beaten the disease during the past 30 years.

This strange ‘outbreak’ of cancer comes just weeks after a national newspaper revealed a cancer epidemic in a single street on the outskirts of Oxford earlier this month. In that case, a total of 16 people have died with two more beating the disease in just 80 homes during the past decade. Some residents fear asbestos contamination has caused the cluster of cancer cases in Mickle Way, a cul-de-sac of council homes in the village of Forest Hill on the outskirts of Oxford.

With such a high cancer risk, rumours and speculation are rife. An asbestos risk is high on the list of possibilities since much of the housing stock, at both locations, had some asbestos in their fabric. Making this worse, both sites were situated close to hospitals where old clinical waste incinerators were demolished with possible release of asbestos fibres from insulation materials and boiler coatings. Other possibilities are dioxins in the soil, leaching from contamination secondary to incinerator operation and later demolition into fruit and vegetables grown in nearby gardens and allotments.

Whatever the cause, if indeed there is one single cause at all, the public belief that there is no such thing as a good incinerator will remain entrenched.



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