Cause for concern

Published: Tuesday 15 September 1998

BABIES born to mothers who live near hazardous waste landfill sites have a higher risk of serious birth defects, warns a European report. Women living within three-kilometre of a hazardous landfill site are more likely to have babies with nervous-system problems, holes in the heart and malformations of the large arteries and veins in the chest, according to the report published in The Lancet.

About 3,500 births, stillbirths and terminations of pregnancy were included in the study of women living near 21 hazardous waste landfill sites in Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and Denmark. The researchers conclude that waste disposal by landfill is a cause for environmental concern. A landfill site may be a health risk for local resi-dents and their children. Industrial waste might contaminate local water and soil, affecting locally-grown food.

The researchers have called for more studies to confirm the potential risks of the waste disposal site. Melbourne-based epidemiologist Nick Crofts says: "I think they are on to something, but they're a long way from proving a causal association."

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