FOREIGN Affairs Minister Micheál Martin has agreed to consult with experts about reportedly high levels of cancer in a harbour town.
He gave an assurance after he was presented with a 4,000-signature petition from people living in Cobh, Co Cork.
Local residents have urged the Government to reconsider carrying out a baseline health study in Cork’s lower harbour.
The petition was gathered in recent weeks after Minister for Health Mary Harney said she didn’t intend to carry out such a study.
It had been promised by Environment Minister John Gormley two years ago, just weeks after a toxic dump had been discovered on Haulbowline Island.
The dump, uncovered in June 2008, contained traces of Chromium 6, one of the worst-known carcinogens.
The petition was handed to Mr Martin yesterday by Cobh-based county councillor John Mulvihill.
He told the minister the people of the town were extremely concerned about the high levels of cancer in the area, reported to be 37% higher than the national average.
“I have received unanimous support from all the members of Cork County Council in seeking a baseline health study to be carried out on the island of Cobh and in the lower harbour area. The Minister for the Environment John Gormley, at a meeting in Cobh some time back, promised that he would bring this proposal to Government as soon as possible, which he did,” Mr Mulvihill said.
He added that it was to the dismay of the local population that the request was turned down by Mary Harney.
“We the people of Cobh and the lower harbour area are requesting you, as one of the senior members of Government, to bring our concerns to the attention of your ministerial colleagues and the Minster for Health and Children in particular to reconsider her decision not to grant a baseline health study,” Mr Mulvihill told Mr Martin.
The minister said he would consult with the National Cancer Registry to ascertain what might be causing the cancer cluster.
Despite the current economic situation, he said he didn’t think funding would present a problem for a baseline health study, if one was needed.
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