25 years ago this week: Friday, May 9, 1986

PUBLIC alarm about radioactive fallout over Northumberland has been fuelled by lack of information from Government departments, say local environmental campaigners.

Members of the Baseline Study Group – set up to monitor background radiation before the possible building of a nuclear power station at Druridge Bay – have been inundated with calls from anxious members of the public this week.

Their gamma counter has recorded background radiation up to 50 per cent above normal as the cloud from the Chernobyl disaster passed over this country.

From official figures group member Mr John Urquhart, a risk analysis specialist at Newcastle University, has calculated the chances of people developing cancer from the iodine 131 fallout.

He says a baby under a year old who drinks a pint of milk a day for two or three weeks faces a 1 in 30,000 risk of contracting thyroid cancer (which is treatable) later in life. A child under 15 has a 1 in 40,000 chance and an adult 1 in 300,000. The dangers are tiny but people have not felt reassured by official statements, the group believes.

“The key question,” says Mr Urquhart, “is the average figure for milk in the north but the Ministry of Agriculture is refusing to give that. There is obviously public anxiety and concern mainly due to the lack of information in this area.”