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BBC Scotland's Willie Johnston reports
"The acrid smoke is all pervasive, clinging to clothes and invading homes"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK
Pyres prompt health fears
Burning pyre
The concerns were raised by a local group
Air tests are to be carried out after fears that the smoke from foot-and-mouth pyres could cause health problems.

Monitoring is to start in Dumfries and Galloway within days after a local group raised concerns that the smoke could have an effect on those living nearby.

But health officials are playing down the risk and hope the research will back them up.

Annandale and Eskdale Council for Voluntary Service raised the concerns that the fires for burning animal carcasses could be affecting public health.

Foot-and-mouth in Scotland
122 confirmed cased on 3 April
Animals slaughtered:
82,000 sheep
1,000 cattle
Of these:
11,000 sheep with tracings to Longtown Market, Cumbria
66,000 at farms within 3km of infected sites
5,000 at adjacent farms
1,000 cattle in Dumfries and Galloway

The group says railway sleepers used in the fires are soaked in bitumen, red diesel, and coal.

And spokesman Paul Thomas is calling for reassurance that the fires are not releasing carcinogenic materials into the air.

He said: "My understanding is that it is the known science that this releases dioxins into the atmosphere in sufficient concentrations within a 3km radius of the pyres to cause very serious long-term health problems."

Dumfries and Galloway Council has called in consultants who will start air monitoring tests in the next few days.

Director of public health Dr Derek Cox says information from the tests should be available in 10 days' time.

But while he accepted that people suffering from conditions like asthma may see symptoms worsening in the short term, he was "pretty sure" there would be no long-term effects.

Delivering message

All but two of the 122 confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in Scotland have been in Dumfries and Galloway, with the other two nearby in the Borders.

The health fears were raised as First Minister Henry McLeish travelled to the United States to stress that Scotland is open for business.

He is aiming to get the message across during Tartan Week, which is held to recognise the part Scots played in the development of America.

The Scottish delegation will include actor Sir Sean Connery and Enterprise Minister Wendy Alexander, who has announced a 13.5m aid package for Dumfries and Galloway.

Peter Lederer, the new chairman of visitscotland, said details of how the organisation will spend its 5m share of the cash will be announced on Wednesday.

The government has brought forward a belated and inadequate scheme

SNP leader John Swinney
However, Scottish National Party leader John Swinney criticised the help on offer during a visit to Caithness and Sutherland.

He called for a "much more ambitious" package of aid for tourism and hard-pressed businesses across rural Scotland.

"Nearly two weeks ago, Henry McLeish promised that the Scottish government would develop 'consequential compensation' for businesses hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis. We have not had anything like that," he said.

"Instead, the government has brought forward a belated and inadequate scheme, with most of the money going to quangos."

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See also:

03 Apr 01 | Scotland
Scotland launches tourism offensive
31 Mar 01 | Scotland
Blair praises foot-and-mouth efforts
28 Mar 01 | Scotland
Animal disease spreads in Scotland
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