A new ‘Industrial facilities: health impact study’ has examined whether the residential communities of Maydown, Strathfoyle and Culmore might be experiencing adverse health effects as a result of exposure to industrial activity.
The draft report, recently completed by Ben Cave Associates Ltd., is sympathetic to community narratives and accepts that when coal and grain dust, soot, and bad smells start infiltrating people’s homes and yards, concerns are real whether ‘objective science’ has proven serious health implications or not.
But the report also finds that the local community is strongly supportive of local industry as a major jobs provider.
“The study area is approximately eight kilometres from the city centre. It has poor links with the city centre. Its long-established residential communities live cheek by jowl with the greatest concentration of businesses requiring Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) permits in Northern Ireland.
“These businesses and others that operate in the area, serve regional, national and international markets. Their continued success is central to the economy of Derry-Londonderry,” the report states.
The authors point out that “no strategic document for the city or the region provides a coherent vision for the people or for the businesses in this area.”
It also warns that the wider context “does not favour a resolution of the central problem of residents in close quarters with industry.”
The Londonderry Area Plan, for example, allows for further industrialisation in what is the last bastion of manufacturing and light industry in the city.
The report concludes: “Residents from communities in the study area report they are experiencing adverse impacts on their health and well-being from proximity to industrial facilities.
“Current evidence suggests that impacts are generally non-attributable due to multiple sources, each of which is likely to be within permitted levels, but which cumulatively give rise to conditions, which local residents find unacceptable.
“Scientific evidence identified through a review of academic research suggests this is plausible.
“The review of information regarding cancer clusters in the study area identifies the need for further information.
“Studies of other residential communities near industrial areas show that causation is difficult to establish.”
The report recommends adopting the “precautionary principle” with regard to future development and also recommends “a small area health study to determine if there are measurable changes in clinical health outcomes due to environmental exposure to industrial activity.”