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Western Morning News 23 Jan 2006

HEALTH FEARS: Diane Irwin DUMP: The landfill site at Kingsteignton – which is overlooked by Diane Irwin’s property – and where 8,500 tonnes of cattle carcasses were dumped at the height of the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 Waste company rejects claims and says authorities are satisfied tip is safe

‘FMD burial site has damaged my family’s health’

Louise Vennells

A DOG breeder is widening her campaign against a Westcountry landfill site, which she claims has had a severe impact on her household’s health.

Diane Irwin’s property overlooks the Kingsteignton landfill site where 8,500 tonnes of cattle carcasses were dumped at the height of the foot and mouth crisis.

Since then, Mrs Irwin claims she, her husband and their West Highland terriers have all suffered a catalogue of health problems. On the list are fungal infections, chest problems and even premature deaths in the dogs.

Viridor Waste Management Ltd, the company which is responsible for the site, insists there is no evidence to back up her claims and the authorities are entirely satisfied the landfill site is safe. But Mrs Irwin said a number of litters were stillborn, or only lived a few days.

She said: “I definitely feel my campaign is gathering momentum. We are going to keep it up.”

But there is some good news in the Irwin household. Acting on the advice of a toxicology expert, she bought an air filtration system which she leaves in with her dogs overnight. She claims it has made a “phenomenal difference”.

The advice came from Dr Dick Van Steenis, a former Devon GP. He suggested everybody living within a three mile radius of the landfill site should install the same device – a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter, available for less than £100.

Dr Van Steenis, who was once based in Torbay but now lives in Hereford, said in his view there could be tiny particles in the air left from fuel used to burn animals during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. He believes these could cause health problems including cancer. He added a HEPA filter can take out a huge number of the harmful particles.

He predicted a sharp rise in health problems in the area over the next few years. “It’s too early for that to manifest itself yet, but my fear is that it will,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Mrs Irwin believes support for opposition to the landfill site in her community is growing. And MP Richard Younger-Ross wrote a letter saying he “very much sympathised” with Mrs Irwin’s concerns over the mass burial site. He said he had written to Margaret Beckett, secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), asking her to look into it as a “matter of urgency”.

Viridor spokesman Dan Cooke said Mr Younger-Ross had regular contact with the company and had never expressed concerns about the landfill site.

He said: “Contrary to these claims, there have been a number of studies recently which show there are no links between landfills and health or environmental effects.

“The Environment Agency, the council and all other concerned bodies are all entirely satisfied that none of the practices in place at the landfill contribute towards damage to health or the environment.”