North Sheffield Primary Care Trust’s (PCT) report, released on 19th October 2005, states that for nasal irritation, ‘there may well be a causal link between the landfill site and this symptom.’
It comes as no surprise to people living nearby who find the smell unbearable at times. Fifty percent of them suffer from asthma, nasal irritation, sinus problems and runny noses.
After careful investigation of the other possible cause of this problem, motor vehicle emissions, the report concludes this isn’t the source of pollutants causing the increased reporting of nasal irritation. The landfill is the only likely source.
While the report agrees that nasal irritation is ‘undoubtedly unpleasant’, it is not a serious disease. The PCT could find no evidence of any increased incidence of cancer or birth defects amongst people living near the landfill, a finding that it describes as ‘good news’ for local residents. But many of them are describing it as a ‘whitewash’.
Jean Armstrong of Parkwood Landfill Action Group was disappointed the PCT did not recommend the site be closed, “Residents knew it would be a whitewash and it is. Every good opportunity to shut the landfill, and stop it ruining our lives, has been wasted. Kingsmead residents have to put up with dreadful smells and the terrible noise of bulldozers working close to the estate on Cell 2.”
The survey is a follow up to an earlier report published in November 2003. The Messenger reported anger amongst the population surveyed, because results were being dismissed as due to ‘reporting bias’. The original survey showed higher levels of chronic obstructed airway disease (COPD) amongst people living near the site. The report suggested this could be due to reporting bias, because respondents were said to be aware of controversy around the landfill site and therefore more likely to report symptoms.
The second survey aimed to discover whether reporting bias would account for the earlier results, by examining medical records to see whether they matched up to the questionnaires. It ‘does not provide any evidence of reporting bias in the results of the original health survey’.
Further research involved physically testing respondents to discover whether they were actually suffering from COPD. The results showed ‘evidence for a small amount of under-reporting of COPD in the health survey’, and that under-reporting was greater amongst people living closer to the site. This suggests that respondents were not more, but less likely to report symptoms.
Green Party councillor Jillian Creasy told the Messenger:
“The PCT study wasn’t designed to look for very local effects or to check what toxins were escaping from the site. Dr Jeremy Wight, Director of Public Health, freely admitted this.”
The Green Party links the problems from the site with the wider problem of waste disposal. Few people realise the incinerator only reduces waste to about 30% of the original volume. 60,000 tonnes of bottom ash still have to be dumped at Parkwood. It’s classed as ‘non hazardous’ but very little is known about what it contains. She added:
“We really need a policy that aims at reducing waste to zero, gradually reducing the amount of waste we produce and reusing and recycling the remains.”
by Andrew Green