A NEWARTHILL mum-of-three is continuing to question what she considers “extremely high” cancer rates in the village.
Gina Rice (44), who was diagnosed with Grade 2 follicular lymphoma last December – for which she is receiving radiotherapy – had to endure the anguish of watching her teenage son John Paul Devlin battle Hodgkin's lymphoma four years ago.
John Paul was ill for a year before he was eventually diagnosed aged 13. After a lengthy and difficult battle, he appears to have made a full recovery and is now a strapping 17-year-old and attending college.
But Gina is worried that what she calls “cancer clusters” across parts of North Lanarkshire may have been caused by contaminated land at Ravenscraig.
She's so concerned about the situation that she has organised a public meeting for next week and she's urging local residents to attend.
Gina told the Wishaw Press: “The number of people that I know of in the Newarthill and Carfin area who have been diagnosed with cancer, and in many cases passed away because of it, in the last couple of years is shocking.
“On my street alone, there have been about 20 people affected. There are just over 70 houses on the street, so you could say that more than a quarter of households where I live have had to deal with a family member, or members with cancer.”
Despite previous assurances from North Lanarkshire Council that the Ravenscraig land is completely safe and also from NHS Lanarkshire that the cancer rates here are not unusually high, Gina remains unconvinced.
She continued: “I'm not suggesting the Ravenscraig site is contaminated now, but it was lying derelict for many years. I think it's possible something toxic could have been disturbed at the containment facility and escaped into the atmosphere, when they started building houses.”
Gina has carried out extensive research on the Ravenscraig site and has a large collection of press clippings detailing a large number of cases of local people – many of them young children like her own son John Paul – who have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer.
She added: “I just want to get to the bottom of this once and for all. How many people are going to die before someone sits up and takes notice?”
Councillor Gordon Stewart, who is aiming to attend next week’s public meeting said: “I’ve made several phone calls to various individuals and organisations regarding this, several of whom have still to respond.
“I have, however, spoken with someone from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) who told me that there have been no problems at the secure containment facility on the north-western part of the Ravenscraig site, which apparently is highly engineered.
“I was also informed that a register of reports at SEPA can be viewed at any time by members of the public.”
The public meeting will take place in Carfin Hibs Club on Friday, September 2, at 7pm.
A council spokesperson said: “It’s a requirement of the Ravenscraig site planning permission that each area to be developed is the subject of detailed site investigations, and through that process we are able to ensure ground conditions are suitable for development.
“Our approach to the development of Ravenscraig is in line with Scottish Government advice. Throughout the process we have kept SEPA fully informed, and we are satisfied that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure the site is safe for development.”
Dr. Charles Clark, NHS Lanarkshire Public Health Consultant, said: “Scotland has a system of cancer registration which has been active for more than 30 years and as a result we have very accurate information about the numbers of cancers occurring and deaths caused by them. There is no evidence of a cluster of cancer in the areas which include Newarthill, New Stevenston, Carfin, Cleland and surrounding areas. The specific cancer rates for the areas are typical of those elsewhere in North Lanarkshire.”