A re-examination of reported excess childhood cancers in Gwynedd; could they be accounted for by socio-economic factors and four additional environmental factors, all additional possible reasons over and beyond previously supposed nuclear industry radiation from coastal silts and thus should we also see elevated adult cancers in the Bangor and Caernarfon regions of North Wales,    by Dr Chris Barnes, Manager, Bangor Scientific and Educational Consultants, LL57.

Dr Barnes Homepage http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk

E-mail: scienceconsultants@yahoo.co.uk

 

Abstract

The case of previously reported and heavily disputed excess childhood cancers in Gwynedd, Wales particularly the Menai Wards has been re-examined. The work of Busby and HTV Wales are examined.  Besides childhood cancer excesses, the author has anecdotal evidence of possible adult excesses.   The specific effects of socio-economic factors and environmental factors including RFR from TV Transmitters and other Communication Towers,, EMF/Power Lines and asbestos are considered.   Other than retinoblastoma all the other cancers reported could have different and possibly multiple associations which would account for the excesses observed.    The spatial distribution of relative risk for all cancers in Bnagor, Caernarfon and Colwyn Bay can equally be accounted for by considering relative distance from the most powerful TV transmitter at Llandonna.  There is fierce disagreement amongst scientists   as to whether radio frequency radiation (RFR) is a cancer initiator or carcinogen per se but it is easier to see how it could be a promoter. Probably some 50% of the population of Wales are classed a socio-economically with some 33% in real poverty. In Gwynedd most of these will be living in the two housing estates comprising the largest populations in the study.   There are clearly documented increased for the risks for nearly all cancers especially the ones in the study in socially deprived households.   Asbestos was also prevalent in this type of local authority housing, a known risk factor for a growing number of cancers. It would appear that the HTV study Busby may well have uncovered a cluster of Brain cancer in the Caernarfon and Penygroes areas and this perhaps warrants further investigation.   Generally the geographic distributions of cancers uncovered by Busby are not consistent with the radioactive silt explanation especially when prevailing wind directions are taken into account.  However, entrapment in tidal salt spray and even precipitation could be an alternative means of delivery.  Anecdotal reports of disease as carried out by Busby’s investigators are not good scientific practice.  Nevertheless there is little doubt the observed patterns of disease existed.  Most of the other childhood cancers obtained by Busby have been associated in studies elsewhere with either EMF and /or RFR. The childhood cancers in Beumaris are closest to the Northern end of the Meani Strait where radiation in the silt should prevail and perhaps warrant further   investigation.

 

Introduction

 

There have been several reports, including television documentaries, linking living in  a coastal strip around the Menai Strait  including Bangor and Caernarfon with a significantly higher than expected incidence of childhood cancer, particular leukaemia, retinoblastoma and brain cancer (1-5).

 

According to private investigations and of the present author and to anecdotal reports received by him, it would seem that adult cancer particularly leukaemia, brain, melanoma, lymphoma, breast and colorectal cancers also potentially have a statistically elevated incidence rate (6, 7).

 

Others have strongly refuted the claims with regard to childhood cancer on the basis of data entry error or improper use of epidemiology rules and etiquette (4,5).     Leukaemia and brain cancer can have causes other than nuclear radiation, whereas the extremely rare genetic cancer of ...retinoblastoma is the only cancer in the study of Busby which has also been mainly linked to such radiation and is known to be enhanced by it, see Gilbert 2009.  (8).   However, there is also some work which links certain parental occupations with the development of this cancer in children (9).  This rare cancer has been well characterised as a genetic disease and its genetic locus is known but it has also been suggested that the illness has also been shown to occur with a high frequency (> 20-fold) in the offspring of those living near or working at Sellafield.

 

One possible reason for querying the claims is that in some areas the excess risks for certain cancers exceeds those immediately adjacent to the Cumbria sites where the radiation is alleged to have originated. 

 

The purpose of this present paper is not decide if any part of North Wales represents a cancer cluster or not.  There is simply not sufficient available public domain data to determine this at present.  However, the purpose is to examine other additional factors which may have played and may still be playing a part in the numbers of cases observed.  

 

Generally the present author believes the following and previously unexplored factors to be potentially relevant these are;   socio-economic factors together with the following additional environmental factors; super-grid transmission lines, TV transmitters, communication towers and asbestos.

 

Socio-economic factors

Recently it has been shown that socio- economic factors have a significant part to play in determining excess risk for most types of cancer (10).  The comparison has been made by assessing the ‘affluent’ socio-economic group has having a standard risk for cancers and then determining odds ratios for a number of other less privileged groups.  It is found as a general rule of thumb that as socio-economic status as determined by income and housing standards falls the odds of most cancers increase almost linearly.  

 

Smoking, heavy drinking, high fat consumption, lack of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals and a general unhealthy lifestyle is likely to be far more prevalent in the lower socio-economic class groups.   

 

With specific reference to the Menai Strait there are two large council estates in Bangor and Caernarfon accounting for upwards of 50% of the population in the study, with a significant proportion of those living their being in receipt of various state benefits.       It is highly probable then that socio-economic factors account for at least part of the observed and apparently excess cases.

 

Supergrid Transmission Lines           

The Menai Strait study refers to a narrow coastal strip. It is worth highlighting that within this strip lies the Pentir to Deeside electricity interconnector consisting of a 400 kV overhead power grid and a parallel 132 kV overhead power grid.    Power grids have been associated with increased risk of Leukaemia, see especially Draper BMJ 2005 (11) and more recently they have been shown to trap and concentrate air pollution and radioactive isotopes including naturally occurring radon and anthropogenic radiation, see document of  public Health England NRPB 2004 (12).  Prevailing winds could drive this concentrate towards housing located within the study region and conceivably increase risk.      

 

TV Transmitters

Due to the hilly and mountainous terrain in Gwynedd,  it can be seen from the map that a significantly large number of TV transmitters and TV relay transmitters are needed to provide coverage into the coastal strip.  

 

This is effectively the same coastal strip described in the various cancer studies (1-5).   Llandonna is the main and most powerful transmitter and Arfon is a significantly powered relay transmitter.  It is very instructive to consider Arfon’s UHF coverage map

 

The coverage map encompasses the same narrow strip in which excess childhood cancers have been previously reported.  Pre-digital switchover, which is the period under investigation Llandonna emitted 100KW ERP on all its analogue TV frequencies.    It also carried 12 KW VHF FM transmitters at the time of the investigation.  

 

6 September 1973 - 1 November 1982

 

 

Frequency

VHF

UHF

kW

Service

 

45.00 MHz

1V

6

BBC1 Wales

 

759.25 MHz

57

100

BBC1 Wales

Frequency

kW

Service

783.25 MHz

60

100

HTV Wales

89.6 MHz

12

BBC Light Programme

807.25 MHz

63

100

BBC2 Wales



91.8 MHz

12

BBC Third Programme

 

 

 

 

 

94.0 MHz

12

BBC Welsh Home Service



 

 

Interestingly, WCISU analysis for Areas of Residence with more than one case and also high (>3) relative risk of leukaemia in the 0-4 age group in the north Wales area from 1982-1990 (Wales Cancer Registry validated data, gives for 2005 for Colwyn Bay a relative risk (RR)= 1.76 

and for Bangor RR= 2.48  and finally for  Caernarfon RR= 2.32. Various cancers have in the past been associated with television transmitters, see for example Dolk I (1997) (13).

 

The average RR for all three being 2.09.   It can be seen form the coverage map that Llanddona has best coverage in the affected wards of the Bangor area coverage into Caernarfon is sparser and coverage into Colwyn Bay is extremely sparse.   Thus the coverage of this TV and FM transmitting station alone would almost seem to account at least in part for the excess risks observed.  

 

 

In addition Llandonna, Arfon which has the tallest TV tower in Wales and to 3.6 KW UHF TV transmitters also more recently added, Police and Ambulance communications, in addition to mobile (cellular) telephone antennas. In 1993, Classic FM began using the site for FM coverage of north west Wales in preference to Llanddona (the BBC's regional FM site), partly due to a dispute over BBC charges for sharing fees of its transmitter masts and antennas, but more because Arfon, in conjunction with Great Orme's Head (near Llandudno) gave Classic FM better coverage than the BBC sites.  On 16 November 1998, local commercial radio station Champion 103 launched from studios in Bangor with its transmitter at Arfon. On 18 July 2006, national digital radio network Digital One began broadcasting from the station.

 

 

The largest housing estate in Bangor is located at Maesgeirchen which is on average 7.75 km from the Llandonna transmitter and the largest housing estate in Caernarfon, namely Ysgubor Goch,   is located on average 8.4 km from the Arfon Transmitter and 11.7 km from Llandonna. Colwyn Bay is some 17.24 Km distant from Llandonna.

 

Both Dolk (13) and Cherry (14) have found increased  cancer risk round TV towers for up to an 8km radial distance.  

 

It is instructive to plot the excess risk for the three towns with distance from Llandonna. 

 

 

In the original report by Busby (1) the mud flats at Traeth Lafan were cited as a source of particulate radiation. Thus a possible criticism which could be that the mudflats at Traeth Lafan are a similar distance from these locations to the Llandonna transmitter.  However, given the direction of prevailing winds radioactive particulates should be mainly blown away from and not towards the said populated areas. The relationship for relative risk against distance from the main TV transmitters at Llandonna is clearly not linear which suggests that there may be other factors at play and one cannot entirely rule out nuclear radiation per se.   According to the quantum electromagnetic theory of Barnes maximum bio-effect at these greater distances from the mast will occur because of the FM radio transmissions at a distance of about 5.6 km.  Although TV emissions have been shown to be more biologically damaging, see Morton and Phillips   (15) their sphere of influence will be limited mainly to radii at .9km and 2.7km following a quantum mechanical argument developed elsewhere and see below (16,17).

 

Local Communication Towers

 

There are now at least 7 mobile phone towers in Bangor. The largest of which at LL57 4DR carries at least 4 different services including GSM, UTMS and TETRA.  Most of Bangor’s largest housing estate lies within 1 and 2 km from the mast which is licensed for a maximum of 4 lots of 32dBW i.e. almost 1000W ERP.  According to the quantum mechanical theory of Smith and also confirmed and modified by Barnes a transmitter will have maximum bio-effect when the magnetic vector potential  A and the magnetic B field are 180 degrees in phase apart.  For a 400 MHz TETRA signal such a condition is satisfied at a distance of 1.25 km from the antenna which is very significant for the Maesgeirchen  estate.  It should be noted that the cancer cases in the study probably predate TETRA but the mast was still emitting 450 MHz FM transmissions prior to TETRA.  A second radius of biological influence will according to Barnes occur at 540 degrees phase difference and for the 900 MHz GSM system on the same mast this will occur at a radial distance of 1.68 Km.

 

Similarly in Caernarfon the transmitter mast at Maesincla Police HQ is within 382m of parts of the Ysgubor Goch housing estate.  There are also 3 nearby mobile phone base stations with both 900 and 1800   MHz emissions.  Following the above quantum mechanical treatment and regarding bio-damage   in this estate, the mobile phone masts are likely to be more relevant than the Police Communications tower.

 

 

Asbestos

The final factor which could be a contributing cause to excess cancers in all age groups but more so the adult group due to its slower action is asbestos. It is well known that the council housing stock in these parts of Wales contains or contained asbestos in various forms.  Asbestos was used in the roofs of sheds and downstairs toilets.  It was used in ‘Marley’ floor tiles.  It was used in ‘Artex’ decorator’s surfacing and it was used in cement and wall fixings.  Finally it was used in some kinds of central heating and in soffit boards and air-vent covers.

 

Asbestos has been shown to perturb biological free radical reactions, see Kamp et al 1992 (18) and as such recently, in addition to lung cancer and mesothelioma, some studies have suggested an association between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers (19) , as well as an elevated risk for cancers of the throat, kidney, esophagus, and gallbladder (20).  One Australian study published in 2009 reviewed the potential and denied the association between exposure to blue asbestos and cervical, ovarian, uterine and breast cancers (21). Nearly 3,000 women from Wittenoom, the home of a large asbestos company operated until 1966, were compared with the general Western Australian population. Bunderson-Schelven et al (2011) have stated that the possibility of other asbestos-induced health effects does exist (22). These include brain-related tumours, blood disorders due to the mutagenic and hemolytic properties of asbestos and peritoneal fibrosis.

 

Thus it is quite clear from the literature that the adverse properties of asbestos are not confined to the pulmonary system.

 

Specific cases

 

Whilst somewhat unusual it may be worthwhile re-examining some of the specific cases cited by Busby for HTV Wales (1) in particularly in terms of how their geographic location could relate to the additional risks outlined above as well as to or as an alternative to mud and silt borne nuclear radiation.

 

Based purely on geographic area it would appear the Busby study uncovers what amounts to be a cluster of childhood Brain cancers in the Caernarfon and Penygroes areas.  It is the opinion of the present author that based on the notion that most silt would be deposited at the North end of the Meani Strait and given the direction of prevailing winds that these Brain cancers are most likely not associated with nuclear radiation arising from the silt. 

Thomas (1987) (23) found an association between brain cancer and  radio frequency radiation (RFR) but it was limited to workers who were also exposed to extremely-low frequency radiation (also called EMF).   

 

Amlwch would also appear to  have its fair share of Leukaemia and rare cancers. In searching for sources of radiation, Amlwch is significantly closer to Wylfa Nuclear Power Station than it is to the expected silt source of radiation and it lies outside the original Menai corridor.

 

Wuanfawr, Caernarfon, Deiniolen and Llanllechid were all reported to have cases of Acute Lymphoid Leukaemia (ALL) all have TV transmitters or TV relay   transmitters close by.  Dolk et al. (1997a, 1997b) examined how cancer rates changed with distance from broadcast towers in Great Britain. The first study looked at a single tower and found rates of adult leukaemia 83% higher (95% CI=1.22-2.74) for those living within 2 km of the tower. A later extension of this study, examining childhood and adult leukaemia rates among 3.4 million people living near the remaining 20 broadcast transmitters in Great Britain, found that adult leukaemia rates were 3% higher than expected (95% CI, 1.00-1.07) within 10 kilometres of the towers and decreased with distance.  This is quite consistent with the present author’s quantum electromagnetic hypothesis where TV emissions have been shown to be more biologically damaging with a  sphere of influence limited mainly to radii of  .9km and 2.7km.

 

Significantly, within the original corridor and reported by Busby are cases of ALL in LlanfairPG and Beaumaris.  The case in Beaumaris is closest to the mud silt flats in question.    The case in LlanfairPG could as an alternative potentially be associated with High Voltage Power lines which dominate the village.  Thus of all the cases in the Busby study, the Beaumaris case is perhaps the only case that cannot logically be labelled with an alternative explanation.

 

Busby does report other cases but they are so far from the Menia Wards as to be irrelevant for this study.  Turning finally to adult cancer, all the cases of adult cancer that the present author is aware of have been diagnosed over the last three years within Bangor and with the exception of three all are within the Maesgeirchen Estate, perhaps a cluster waiting just around the corner?   These cancers are Melanomas, Colorectal, Brain, Tongue and Throat, Leukaemia, Lymphoma and Breast.

 

Conclusions

Other than retinoblastoma all the other cancers reported by Busby could potentially have different and possibly multiple associations which would equally and easily account for the excesses observed.    The spatial distribution of relative risk for all cancers in Bangor, Caernarfon and Colwyn Bay can, for example, equally be accounted for by considering relative distance from the most powerful TV transmitter at Llandonna.  There is fierce disagreement amongst scientists   as to whether radio frequency radiation (RFR) is a cancer initiator or carcinogen per se but it is easier to see how it could be a promoter (24).

 

Probably some  10-50 % of the population of Wales are classed a socio-economically  deprived (25) with some 15- 33%  of children in real poverty  (26) . In Gwynedd most of these will be living in the two housing estates comprising the largest populations in the study.   There are clearly documented increased for the risks for nearly all cancers especially the ones in the study in socially deprived households.   Asbestos was also prevalent in this type of local authority housing, a known risk factor for a growing number of cancers.

 

Other than the single case of ALL in Beaumaris, it would appear that the HTV study Busby may well have uncovered a cluster of Brain cancer in the Caernarfon and Penygroes areas which warrants further investigation.  All the other cancers it uncovers are capable of being rationally accounted for.   Generally the geographic distributions of cancers uncovered by Busby including this brain cancer are not consistent with the radioactive silt explanation especially when prevailing wind directions are taken into account.  However, entrapment in tidal salt spray and even precipitation could be an alternative means of delivery. 

 

Anecdotal reports of disease as carried out by Busby’s investigators are not good scientific practice.  Nevertheless, there is little doubt the observed patterns of disease existed.  Most of the other childhood cancers obtained by Busby have been associated in studies elsewhere with  other factors such as either EMF and /or RFR.

 

The childhood cancers in Beumaris are closest to the Northern end of the Meani Strait where radiation in the silt should prevail and perhaps warrant further   investigation.

 

Adult cancers in Bangor and the surrounding area also seem to be on the increase. Mainly, although not exclusively, these are the types also associated with RFR.   Although again the information has been obtained anecdotally from friends and relatives, there seems little reason to doubt and thus the present author fears we may be at the tip of a new cluster iceberg, particularly with respect to the Maesgeirchen, Bangor estate.  There would be logic here since not only it is close to both the radio-active silt and all four other environmental co-promoters and has a degree of social depravation.  It may have also    received significant radiation from Chernobyl. The author hopes to examine the UK consequences of Chernobyl in the near future, particularly from the cancer latency angle.    

 

References

 

1.      Busby HTV Report http://www.llrc.org/health/subtopic/menai.pdf

2.      White et al   http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/documents/242/050330menaireport.pdf

3.      http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/Documents/242/table1b_update.pdf

4.      Bramhall 2005 http://www.comare.org.uk/statements/documents/wcisurept.pdf

5.      Steward et al (2008) http://iopscience.iop.org/0952-4746/28/1/001/pdf/0952-4746_28_1_001.pdf%E3%80%80

6.      Private Communication

7.      http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/CancerHouses.htm

8.      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2859619/

9.      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2224847

10.  http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/prod_consump/groups/cr_common/@nre/@pol/documents/generalcontent/crukmig_1000ast-3347.pdf

11.  http://www.bmj.com/content/330/7503/1290

12.  http://www.hpa.org.uk/Publications/Radiation/NPRBArchive/DocumentsOfTheNRPB/Absd1501/

13.  http://asafat.tuars.com/archivos/Dolk-Shaddick-Walls-Grundy-Thakrar-Kleinschmidt-1997/Dolk-Shaddick-Walls-Grundy-Thakrar-Kleinschmidt-1997.pdf

14.  http://www.neilcherry.com/documents/90_r3_EMR_Sutro_Paper_09-02.pdf

15.  Morton and Phillips, Epidemiology 11(4) July 2000 pS57

16.   http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/HUMPRED.htm

17.  http://drchrisbarnes.co.uk/More%20egg%20than%20chicken.html

18.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1577332

19.  http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/162/9/868.full

20.  http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/asbestos

21.  http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/18/1/140.short

22.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21534087

23.  http://www.sfdph.org/dph/files/reports/StudiesData/RadioFreqRadRpt032001.pdf

24.  http://people.seas.harvard.edu/~jones/cscie129/pages/health/cancer.htm

25.  http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/new-government-report-reveals-wales-1818911

26.  http://www.barnardos.org.uk/130212_ecp_local_report_final__2_.pdf

27.   

d