§ Mr. Brake
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) how many dioxin tests have been conducted on(a) Byker employees and (b) employees working at other incineration plants since 1979; and if he will place the results in the Library; 
(2) how many dioxin tests have been conducted on employees working on the demolition of incineration plants since 1979; and if he will place the results in the Library; 
(3) if he will list the studies carried out into health of employees who have worked at the Byker incinerator; 
(4) if he will place in the Library a copy of the advice given to Byker employees covering the health effects of working with incinerators. 247W
§ Mr. Meacher
[holding answer 23 March 2001]: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has not received any requests from Byker employees or trade unions for advice on the potential health effects of working with incinerators or for requests for studies into the health of employees. HSE considers that the Environment Agency's current legislation is such that the potential exposure of employees to dioxins is very low.
Exposure to dioxins (both environmental and workplace) can be measured using blood tests. Blood tests are invasive and are not normally carried out unless there is a clear need or concern expressed by those involved. They are also time consuming and expensive. Under these circumstances, they are unlikely to yield useful information. Consequently HSE has not carried out dioxin tests on employees at incinerator plants or those involved in the demolition of these plants and does not believe that random blood tests are necessary.
The only health effects from dioxins which could be detected by health checks is the skin condition, chloracne. This only occurs at high exposures, for example as a result of industrial accidents, and consequently checks for this condition would not be of value at exposure levels associated with incinerators.
In the absence of investigations due to accidents, reports of ill health and complaints, HSE's inspectorates carry out its elective work guided by priorities. In 1995 HSE's inspectorate rated the health risks at the Byker plant as 'medium' and on reassessment in 1999 and 2000 as 'low'. The assessment included examination of the general standards of ventilation and cleanliness etc. at this medium-sized plant which employs approximately 20 people. These ratings did not indicate a need proactively to supply information to Byker employees or trade unions on the potential health effects of working with incinerators.