Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 12:59 UK

University radiation probe begins

Dr Arthur Reader and Dr Hugh Wagner, who both died from cancer
Arthur Reader and Hugh Wagner worked in the Rutherford Building

An expert has been appointed by a university to investigate claims that radiation exposure may be linked to the deaths of five people who worked there.

Professor David Coggon from the Medical Research Council will lead the review at the University of Manchester.

Five former staff at its Rutherford Building have died from cancer.

The Nobel Prize-winning chemist Ernest Rutherford carried out experiments in the building in 1908, using radioactive elements such as radon and polonium.

The university maintains there is no risk to students or staff.

A University of Manchester spokesman said: "The University of Manchester has engaged Professor David Coggon to lead an independent review into possible health risks associated with ionising radiation in the University's Rutherford Building.

University of Manchester
The university does not believe the building is unsafe

"The university has commissioned the Health Protection Agency (HPA), an accredited external body, to assist Professor Coggon's independent review."

Professor Coggon, whose PhD dealt with occupational causes of cancer, will meet university bosses next week to discuss how the review will be conducted.

The alarm was first raised in a report into the deaths of lecturers Dr Hugh Wagner and Dr John Clark, who worked in the psychology department which occupied the Rutherford Building until recently.

Dr Wagner, 62, died from pancreatic cancer last year, while Dr Clark died in 1992 from a brain tumour.

Three former colleagues produced a report into the possible health risks at the university in June.

It then emerged that three other people who worked in the building had died from cancer.

Brain tumour

Dr Arthur Reader, 69, of Fallowfield, Manchester, who worked in the psychology department from 1969 to 1993, died from pancreatic cancer earlier this month.

Computer assistant Vanessa Santos-Leitao, 25, died of a brain tumour in February and lab assistant Moira Joy Hayward, died from cancer in 1984, aged 48.

Last week the university said there was not enough evidence to suggest a link between the deaths and possible radiation exposure.

Manchester Coroner Nigel Meadows is to hold an inquest to establish if any substances Dr Reader may have been exposed to contributed to his cancer.

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