§ Mr. Mike O'Brien
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the research relating to the health implications of living in proximity to opencast sites that he has considered in reviewing the opencast planning guidelines.
§ Mr. Baldry
Research into environmental health issues is carried out by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Government's main agency for biomedical research, which is funded by the Office of Science and Technology. I am however aware that the Department of Health's medical staff have discussed with Drs Temple and Skyes their recent research on the subject of asthma and opencast mining and I understand that the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants is also being asked for advice on this matter. I am also aware of a recent epidemiological study carried out by the Institute of Occupational Medicine on behalf of British Coal into the respiratory health of opencast coal workers, the main conclusion of which was that neither asthma nor chronic bronchitis among them was related to exposure to airborne dust.
My Department will take account of all material considerations in its review of the opencast coal planning guidelines.