"Although UK Government said risk is "minute", they admitted Sellafield plant is the source of contamination."
Antony Barnett, public affairs editor
Radioactive pollution from the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria has led to children's teeth across Britain being contaminated with plutonium.
The Government has admitted for the first time that Sellafield 'is a source of plutonium contamination' across the country. Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson has revealed that a study funded by the Department of Health discovered that the closer a child lived to Sellafield, the higher the levels of plutonium found in their teeth.
Johnson said: 'Analysis indicated that concentrations of plutonium... decreased with increasing distance from the west Cumbrian coast and its Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant - suggesting this plant is a source of plutonium contamination in the wider population.'
Johnson claimed the levels of plutonium are so minute that there is no health risk to the public. But this is disputed by scientists, MPs and environmental campaigners who have called for an immediate inquiry into how one of the world's most dangerous materials has been allowed to continue to contaminate children's teeth. There have long been claims of clusters of childhood leukaemia around Sellafield.
In the late 1990s researchers collected more than 3,000 molars extracted from young teenagers across the country during dental treatment and analysed them. To their surprise they found traces of plutonium in all the teeth including those from children in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Alarmingly, they discovered that those living closer to Sellafield had more than twice the amount of those living 140 miles away.
Plutonium is a man-made radioactive material and the only source of it in Britain is from Sellafield. The plant, which reprocesses nuclear fuel from reactors, still discharges plutonium into the Irish Sea.
The original research was carried out in 1997 by Professor Nick Priest who was working for the UK Atomic Energy Authority. At the time the conclusions of the research received little attention because the study concluded that the contamination levels were so minuscule they were thought to pose an 'insignificant' health risk.
But earlier this year the Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters, looking at health risks posed by radioactive materials, examined Priest's study. Some of the committee's members have now cast doubt on the conclusions that plutonium in children's teeth posed no health risk.
Professor Eric Wright, of Dundee University Medical School, is one of the country's leading experts on blood disorders and a member of the committee. He believes that the tiny specks of plutonium in children's teeth caused by Sellafield radioactive pollution might lead to some people falling ill with cancer.
He said: 'There are genuine concerns that the risks from internal emitters of radiation are more hazardous [than previously thought]. The real question is by how much. Is it two or three times more risky... or more than a hundred? ...............