More study sought on 'clusters' of baby defects

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Indy Politics
AN official analysis of the pattern of babies born with deformed or no hands was last night questioned by the Labour MP who led calls for a national investigation, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Peter Mandelson, MP for Hartlepool, where some of the defects have been identified, said the conclusion by the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys that there was no link to coastal areas had not allayed concerns.

Mr Mandelson raised the issue in the wake of reports of apparent clusters of babies born with missing or deformed hands in Scotland, north- east England, the Isle of Wight and Cornwall.

Tom Sackville, a junior health minister, said the OPCS had concluded there was no difference in prevalence between coastal and non-coastal areas. The text is being published in this week's Lancet.

Mr Mandelson said he would continue to press for a further inquiry, saying: 'I am not at all satisfied with these findings. They are based on a system which OPCS itself says is incomplete. OPCS acknowledges in a footnote that the analysis was not ever designed to identify clusters or test the impact of environmental factors.

'We have waited three months for this independent report which I am afraid to say gives little comfort to parents and children.'