Study objective: To investigate the risk of stillbirth, neonatal death, and lethal congenital anomaly among babies of mothers living close to incinerators and crematoriums in Cumbria, north west England, 1956–93.
Design: Retrospective cohort study. Logistic regression was used to investigate the risk of each outcome in relation to proximity at birth to incinerators and crematoriums, adjusting for social class, year of birth, birth order, and multiple births. Continuous odds ratios for trend with proximity to sites were estimated.
Setting: All 3234 stillbirths, 2663 neonatal deaths, and 1569 lethal congenital anomalies among the 244 758 births to mothers living in Cumbria, 1956–1993.
Main results: After adjustment for social class, year of birth, birth order, and multiple births, there was an increased risk of lethal congenital anomaly, in particular spina bifida (odds ratio 1.17, 95% CI: 1.07 to 1.28) and heart defects (odds ratio 1.12, 95% CI: 1.03 to 1.22) around incinerators and an increased risk of stillbirth (odds ratio 1.04, 95% CI: 1.01 to 1.07) and anencephalus (odds ratio 1.05, 95% CI: 1.00 to 1.10) around crematoriums.
Conclusions: The authors cannot infer a causal effect from the statistical associations reported in this study. However, as there are few published studies with which to compare our results, the risk of spina bifida, heart defects, stillbirth, and anencephalus in relation to proximity to incinerators and crematoriums should be investigated further, in particular because of the increased use of incineration as a method of waste disposal.
- congenital anomaly
- neonatal death
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Funding: the authors are grateful to Newcastle Hospitals Special Trustees for funding the project and to the North of England Children’s Cancer Research Fund for ongoing support.
Conflicts of interest: none.