Sick children sue after playing on waste tip

Fourteen children in a South Wales village are suing the Welsh Development Agency claiming exposure to contaminated land has caused sickness and may have made them vulnerable to life-threatening illness.

The children, now aged between seven and 11, live in the same street five yards from a strip of land contaminated with chemical waste from a disused coking plant in Abercwmboi. It is one of many tips in the area. Waste from the same source is known to contain substances such as mercury, asbestos, phenols and ammonia, many of which are cancer-causing.

Vicky Cook's nine-year-old son, Martin Pontin, suffered severe ulcers and nose-bleeds and her four-week-old daughter developed weeping sores which she blames on the tip.

"The children used to play on the field and one day they started suffering from terrible mouth ulcers. They covered two teeth. One boy had so many he couldn't swallow his own saliva. They also suffered heavy successive nose-bleeds." Doctors were baffled. One boy's underarm blisters ate into his armpit and failed to respond to antibiotics.

"We didn't link the site and the illnesses and so we never stopped them playing on the land. There was no fence and the area is very attractive to young children," says Ms Cook. But following publicity surrounding more than 300 cancer cases among former workers at the nearby coking plant, residents became suspicious. The Welsh Development Agency bought the site behind the houses a decade ago, but has only recently put any fencing around it.

Ann Clwyd, MP for Cynon Valley, visited last summer: "I walked over the site with them and saw the skulls of animals and the carcasses of birds, hedgehogs and sheep that were stuck in the soft sticky tar. Children and dogs had played on another part of the site, and the children had fallen ill with sores, blisters and ulcers. There were no signs saying danger and there was no proper fence to keep children and animals away," she said.

Solicitors acting for the children commissioned an independent land survey from a team of specialists at Exeter University. Peter Granger, director of the Earth Resources Centre at the university, says the findings are consistent with the chemicals the parents feared. "There was a mix of heavy metals and organic compounds. It did show contamination above accepted levels," he says. The chemical analysis supports the children's claims and amplifies anxieties that they may be vulnerable to cancers and other life-threatening illnesses.

Under the Occupiers Liability Act owners of property who believe it may contain dangerous elements have a duty of care even for trespassers.

Mike Green, a solicitor with Smith Llewelyn, thinks the children have a strong case. "The situation was always worse during the summer when the hot weather melted the pitch and chemicals would come to the surface."

Vicky Cook also believes that in summer contaminated particles polluted the air causing the ulcers on her baby.

The Welsh Development Agency refused to comment last week but it moved 300 tons of earth from behind the housing to a licensed tip in South Wales.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer - Java

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital publishing solution...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Financial Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness