Scottish FOI case assists Welsh campaigners

A landmark Freedom of Information case in Scotland could reveal the true impact of pollution on people's health in Wales. Campaigners are hoping to use the ruling to obtain information about cases of cancer diagnosed in areas which they might consider to be "at risk".

The precedent could assists the villages surrounding the notorious Nantygwyddon tip in the Rhondda, where previous attempts to get such information have failed on the grounds of confidentiality. Experts believe the ruling by three Scottish Court of Session judges could benefit other campaign groups monitoring the effect of pollution on people's health, including the effects of living near landfill, a nuclear power station or a rubbish incinerator.

RANT - Rhondda Against Nantygwyddon Tip - has resubmitted an application to the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit asking for information about the incidence of cancer in the area.

Although RANT, and other organisations, have previously asked for such data under the Freedom of Information Act, requests had been turned down on the grounds that the information could identify individuals with cancer. In the Scottish case the information was produced in "barnardised" form - applying a statistical formula to the raw data to prevent identification.

There are fears that releasing such information on an individual electoral ward basis could identify the people involved, especially if they have been diagnosed with a rare form of the disease. This in turn could prevent people from agreeing to have their cancer registered, which could affect the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit's ability to analyse trends in the disease.

Scots case boosts anti-tip campaign ( website, 16 December 2006)