They also ruled out a genetic cause for the abnormalities, which include missing hands and fingers in babies born in Ryde between February 1989 and May 1990. However, no single causal factor has been established and the investigation is continuing.
There was speculation that the deformities had arisen because some of the mothers swam in the Solent while pregnant. Following publicity about the cases, more 'clusters' of children with deformities in coastal areas in Ireland, Scotland, the North-east, and Cornwall were identified.
Local health authorities in some areas have organised their own inquiries, and yesterday Dr Brian Keeble, director of public health to the Isle of Wight Health Commission, reporting on interim findings, said that no environmental pollutants had been shown to cause similar problems in animals or humans. He said the most likely cause was a developmental problem in the womb.