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Shocking new figures released today by Friends of the Earth show Labour's heartland constituencies are bearing the brunt of Britain's pollution problem [listed below]. The news will embarrass the Labour Party in the run-up to an Election in which the biggest threat to the Party's success could be apathy and disappointment among its core voters.

Two-thirds of all cancer-causing chemicals released to our environment every year come from factories in the ten percent of the most deprived communities in England, FOE's research reveals. Almost all these areas are in Labour-held constituencies [see table 2 and Annex 1 following].

FOE's study looked at official pollution data from the UK's biggest factories, held by the Environment Agency, and at the Government's new Index of Multiple Deprivation. FOE wants Labour to include in its manifesto a pledge to cut toxic pollution by 80 per cent by 2005, with an ultimate aim to reduce it to zero.

The new research backs up earlier findings which showed that in 1996 there were 662 large polluting factories in areas with average household incomes of £15,000 a year and only 5 in areas with average income is £30,000 or more. In response to this earlier research John Prescott said in a Fabian Society speech that “We should never lose sight of the fact that it is the poor who suffer most from pollution". Yet the Labour Government has failed to set a target to reduce this pollution.

FOE's Research also reveals that the North West is the most polluted region, with almost 8,000 tonnes of cancer-causing chemicals released. London suffers least from Factory Pollution with only 20 tonnes released (see Table 1).

Mike Childs, Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth, said:
“People in the poorest parts of the country are being bombarded by cancer-causing pollution. But the response from Government amounts to little more than a few crocodile tears. These people vote Labour. Labour is letting them down. If there is real concern in the Party about their core voters and England's most deprived communities, then Labour's Manifesto should include a promise of drastic cuts in pollution from Britain's biggest factories.”

The analysis of Welsh data does not show a similar correlation between carcinogen pollution and poverty. Further research is needed here, but factors which may be influencing the analysis include the large number of former coalfield areas suffering multiple deprivation. An analysis in other parts of the UK is not possible because in Northern Ireland the inventory of factory pollution data is not yet complete and in Scotland there is no factory pollution inventory at all.

Friends of the Earth is calling for:

  • A target to reduce factory pollution by 80 per cent by 2005.

  • Tony Blair's Social Exclusion Unit to include environmental justice as part of its work.

  • New statutory guidelines for regeneration strategies to lead to economic growth that also delivers improved health and a better quality environment.

  • The Government to revise the Index of Multiple Deprivation to include environmental deprivation and extend the Index to cover all parts of the UK.

A briefing (Pollution and Poverty) and further table are available from Friends of the Earth.

Government Office Region: tonnes
North West    7,820.0
North East    1,481.8
East Midlands    953.8
Yorkshire and Humberside    546.5
Wales    438.9
South East    316.9
Eastern    230.2
West Midlands    78.4
South West    31.5
London    20.6
Total:    11,919

Table 1: Total amounts of recognised carcinogens released to air, 1999

Derek Twigg, Halton (2 wards)
Andrew Miller, Ellesmere Port and Neston
Marjorie Mowlam, Redcar
Frank Cook, Stockton North
Beverley Hughes, Stretford and Urmston
GeorgeTurner, Norfolk North West
Jack Cunningham, Copeland
Margaret Beckett, Derby South
Denis MacShane, Rotherham
Adrian    Bailey, West Bromwich West
Michael Foster, Hastings and Rye
Rosie Winterton, Doncaster Central
Clive Betts, Sheffield AttercliffeBruce George, Walsall South
Clare Short, Birmingham Ladywood
Brian Cotter, Weston-Super-Mare
Gerry Bermingham, St Helens South
Joe Ashton, Bassetlaw
Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield
Ronald    Campbell, Blyth Valley
Graham Stringer, Manchester Blackley
Mark Hendrick, Preston
Dennis    Turner, Wolverhampton South
David Lock, Wyre Forest
Peter Snape, West Bromwich East
David Winnick, Walsall North

Table 2: MPs and consitituencies in Annex 1

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust