SCEPTICS of Michael Ryan and Dr Dick van Steenis might be inclined to argue that other factors, such as levels of social deprivation, account for the higher rates of infant mortality observed in wards downwind of incinerators.

It is certainly a valid argument to make, insofar as rates of infant mortality are typically correlated with levels of social deprivation in the UK, meaning larger numbers of infant deaths are expected to occur in poorer areas.

However, Mr Ryan and Dr van Steenis point to the case of Chingford Green to counter those who insist that high rates of infant mortality are explained by levels of deprivation and not incinerator emissions.

Chingford Green, which is approximately five miles downwind of the UK's largest incinerator at Edmonton, is a relatively affluent ward in the London borough of Waltham Forest, yet between 2002 and 2008 its infant mortality rate was the highest in the borough.

During that period there were, on average, 9.7 infant deaths every year per 1,000 births in the ward, according to the ONS statistics obtained by Mr Ryan.

That is almost double the average UK-wide infant mortality rate for the same period, which saw 5.16 deaths per 1,000 births.

Between 2003 and 2005 the wealthy Chingford Green ward also had the second highest infant mortality rate in the capital.

Suspicions that toxic fumes from the Edmonton incinerator were to blame for the premature baby deaths in the ward prompted Edmonton MP Andy Love to raise the issue in the House of Commons in June last year.

In a parliamentary debate, Mr Love asked whether the Department of Health had commissioned any research into the possible link between incinerators and infant mortality.

He was told by the minister of state for health, Simon Burns, that the department had 'not commissioned research specifically on any effects on infant mortality and morbidity arising from residence in the vicinity of a municipal waste incinerator.'