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The BBC's Peter Hunt
"The allegation is that workers were poisoned by leaks of the deadly gas"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 09:37 GMT
Workers 'poisoned' at nerve gas base

Nancekuke Nancekuke was closed in 1980

Ministers are being urged to launch an inquiry into allegations that workers at a former chemical weapons base were poisoned by leaks of a deadly nerve gas.

Labour MP Candy Atherton wants the Ministry of Defence to examine again medical evidence relating to the Nancekuke base in Cornwall.

The site was used by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to supply the nerve gas sarin to the defence research establishment at Porton Down, Wiltshire.

nancekuke The base supplied the nerve gas sarin
Ms Atherton says 41 deaths were recorded over a period of 19 years, while more than 300 cases of bronchial and respiratory problems were reported.

The MP also wants defence chiefs to investigate whether land in the area is contaminated as a result of work at the base.

But the MoD has always maintained that a 1970 report showed that the base posed no health threat.

Commons debate

It has said the report showed mortality rates in the area were lower than for workers in England and Wales as a whole.

candy atherton mp Candy Atherton: Contacted by former workers
Production of nerve gas at Nancekuke was thought to have ended in the mid-1960s, while the base was closed in 1980 and turned into RAF Portreath.

Ms Atherton, MP for Falmouth and Camborne, is to raise her concerns in a House of Commons debate on Tuesday.

She said she would highlight the case of a constituent who says he suffered ill-health from an accident at the base in 1958.

The MP added: "Since I began investigating this issue I have been contacted by a succession of former workers with similar experiences to tell."

Tommy Griffiths, aged 78, of Illogan, has been battling for 30 years to get the government to admit that while working at Nancekuke in 1958 he was poisoned by nerve gas.

After the meeting, Mr Griffiths told the West Briton newspaper: "I'm slightly more optimistic that the Ministry of Defence will have to do something now. I think their attitude has been disgraceful."

Two other men who swam in the sea at Trevone, near Padstow, in the summer of 1975 claim discharges from Nancekuke caused their long term health problems.

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See also:
28 Oct 99 |  UK
Scientists 'knew nerve gas risks'
18 Oct 99 |  UK
Police probe Porton Down deaths
26 Aug 99 |  UK
Porton Down - a sinister air?
20 Aug 99 |  UK
Police probe nerve gas centre death

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