HC Deb 02 May 1972 vol 836 cc99-101W
80. Mr. Spriggs

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what records his Department has of the number of deaths caused by cancer of the lung, etc; which parts of the United Kingdom suffer the highest death rates as a result of cancer: and if he will make a statement.

Sir K. Joseph:

Details of all deaths registered in England and Wales, and of their causes, are available in the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, which publishes extensive mortality statis- tics. Similar data are available in the other parts of the United Kingdom.

In 1970 the deaths and death rates in England and Wales attributed to malignant neoplasms were as follows:

All Sites Trachea, Bronchus, Lung
Males 62,550 24,913
Females 53,179 5,371
Death rates per million living:
Males 2,625 1,045
Females 2,114 214

Corresponding death rates were slightly higher in Scotland (males 2,709, females 2,168) than in England and Wales but lower in Northern Ireland (males 1,979, females 1,714). Among the regions and conurbations of England and Wales in 1970, the highest mortality rates were recorded in the Merseyside conurbation (2,912 for males, 2,178 for females).

Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether he will obtain and study the Report of Professor Howe, of Strathclyde University, details of which have been sent to him, into the cause of deaths due to cancer; and whether he will make a statement on the report's claim that cancer may be caused by trace elements in soil and water and that the water reacting with lead pipes to older house properties may be adversely affecting the health of the nation;

(2) whether he will cause a national survey to be made to ascertain to what extent death from cancer may be resulting from the contamination of drinking water caused by lead pipes in older types of properties; and whether he will seek to consult with Professor Howe of Strathclyde University in arranging such a survey;

(3) whether he has received the communication from the hon. Member for West Ham, North, regarding the analytical survey carried out in the London Borough of Newham, claiming that cancer death in West Ham, being 52 per cent. above the national average, is due in part to the contamination of the water supplies by the lead pipes in private households; and whether he will have an investigation made and make a statement.

Mr. Alison:

Professor Howe's survey is an account of the geographical distribution of cancer of the lung and stomach and is based primarily on mortality statistics published in the reports of the Registrar General. The unequal geographical distribution of cancer of the stomach has long been known and has been the subject of much research. It is possible that trace substances in the environment may be a factor and these are at present being investigated. Lead, however, is unlikely to be a significant factor, since sections of the population exposed to high occupational intakes have not been shown to be specially susceptible to cancer of the stomach. No special investigation relating cancer of the stomach to the lead content of water has been carried out in Newham, since the lead content of the water is low.