Health officials are investigating why five babies from the same street were all born with the same rare birth defect.

The infants were born with a condition in which the bowel protrudes through a hole in the abdomen. It is treatable with surgery after birth.

The children were born over 12 years but all live or lived in the same street – Waterdales, in Northfleet, Kent.

The condition, gastroschisis, affects one in every 7,000 babies, and the mothers only discovered there were multiple cases through talking to friends and neighbours.

The mothers fear that toxins in the ground responsible, though a spokesman for Gravesham Borough Council said the land had been used for housing for more than 60 years and that he was unaware of any industrial use beforehand.

The mothers are taking advice from specialists at King's College, London, and are to meet next week with Meradin Peachey, Kent's director of public health, who said the matter was being taken "very seriously".

Ms Peachey is considering launching a formal inquiry with the Health Protection Agency.

Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, told the BBC: "There is something causing this and it would be really quite good to find out what it was. It could be that there's contaminated stuff in the ground."