HC Deb 23 May 1957 vol 570 cc1394-5
47. Dr. Stross

asked the Prime Minister whether he has noted that the amount of radiostrontium found in the bones of newly-born children and young infants is appreciably higher than in the bones of adults; and what action the Government propose to take to prevent the incidence of bone cancer and leukemia as the amount rises in future years.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The fact that radiostrontium is concentrated to a greater extent in the bones of young children than in those of adults was recognised and taken fully into account in the Report of the Medical Research Council published in June, 1956. I am informed that the present average level found in the bones of children under five years of age is well below one unit. The Medical Research Council has expressed the view that the concentration in the general population, with its proportion of young children, should not exceed 100 units.

Dr. Stross

Has the Prime Minister noted, in looking at this problem, that the tendency for radiostrontium in bones, whether of cattle or human beings, does tend to rise, and that we must expect it inevitably to rise in the next twenty years, even if no more explosions are made? As it has risen in sheep, for example, ten times over a period of three years—1954 to 1956—will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of the Question, namely, what he is going to do: to prevent the incidence of bone cancer and leukemia as the amount rises in future years.

The Prime Minister

There are two parts to the Question. I must repeat that the ratio between what is regarded as reasonably safe and what now exists is 100 to 1. Although that should not make us complacent, it certainly should not make us unduly pessimistic. With regard to the larger question, we have debated that and we shall again debate it in the future. It is our hope that a full measure of disarmament agreement may be reached between the great Powers.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the Prime Minister aware that this condition is cumulative and, therefore, there can be no comfort in the thought that there is only a certain amount present in the bones of young children at this stage?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, but whether it is cumulative or not, these ratios are still an effective test of the reality of the situation.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister keeps quoting the Medical Research Council as though its Report supported the idea that there was a threshold dose below which no danger obtains? Is it not true that the Report cannot be interpreted in that way, particularly in the light of the very important appendix elaborating the argument that in fact the relationship is proportionately between the dose and its effects and there is not a threshold dose?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I think that that is not a correct reading of the Report.