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Tuberculosis, Tyneside

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 13 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Health if he will investigate the relationship between the incidence of tuberculosis on Tyneside and the pollution of the tidal part of the river.

Is the Minister aware that in spite of the very great improvements since the war the proportion of tuberculosis on Tyneside is still almost twice the national one? Is he further aware that the pollution of the tidal waters of the Tyne is really shocking? It is one of the most heavily-polluted rivers in the country. May there not be some connection between these facts? Will he not at least look into the problem?

It was as a result of doing so that I gave the answer. It is certainly true that the incidence of tuberculosis in this area is much higher than in the rest of the country, but I am advised that of the one or two cases mentioned in medical literature there was only one on the North-East coast, in 1949, which might be linked up with polluted water. Infection is normally passed in the air through the medium of a droplet or of dust and, therefore, would not normally be connected with water pollution.

Is the Minister aware of the proud and important status of the Tyne in the life of the people of the North-East? Is he also aware that we all regret its continued use as an open sewer? It is- having a very detrimental effect in that area. Will he endeavour to influence local authorities to try to introduce a comprehensive sewerage scheme in the area, so as to prevent the Tyne being used as it is at present?

That is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, but if any evidence came to me from that area that there was a link between what is admittedly a still high, though a dropping, incidence of tuberculosis and any pollution, I should be very glad to go into the matter.