Sellafield cancer link branded 'fragile': BNFL disputes study on child leukaemia cases

A STUDY purporting to link a rash of childhood cancers and radiation from the Sellafield reprocessing plant was both fragile and implausible, and contradicted by other research, British Nuclear Fuels insisted in the High Court yesterday.

Kenneth Rokison QC, was summing up for BNFL, at the close of the multi-million pound test case in which the company is being sued by the families of two children who suffered cancers that they claim resulted from genetic damage caused by their fathers being exposed to radiation - 40 cases are awaiting the outcome.

It is the first time a British court has been asked to decide personal injury claims based on alleged genetic damage passed on from a father's sperm or a mother's eggs and, if successful, could have major implications for the nuclear industry.

Legal costs of the highly complex case, which has been running for the past eight months, was years in preparation and involved 31 witnesses, including world experts on radiation, genetics and epidemiology, are expected to run to at least pounds 7m.

Vivien Hope, 27, whose father, David, worked at Sellafield, is claiming pounds 125,000 after developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from which she has made a partial recovery, and Elizabeth Reay, whose husband, George, also worked at the plant, is suing BNFL for pounds 150,000 for the death of her 10-month-old daughter Dorothy in 1962.

Both families say the cancers resulted from sperm damage caused by their fathers exposure to radiation. Central to their case is a 1990 study by the late Professor Martin Gardner, an epidemiologist, who found 'statistically significant' numbers of childhood leukaemias among the children of Sellafield workers.

But Mr Rokison said yesterday that neither the report nor its authors should be 'placed on a pedestal' - particularly since they had been very cautious in their conclusions and hypothesies. The thrust of the report, which found that the children of Sellafield fathers were twice as likely to develop leukaemia, related to a 'cluster' of only five cases in the nearby village of Seascale.

It was unsupported by any other studies and formed a 'very fragile basis' on which to found allegations of a causal link, he said.

Final submissions are likely to continue until next Tuesday when Mr Justice French is expected to reserve judgment for at least a month.

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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there