(NaturalNews) A ten-week lawsuit is underway to determine whether a town in England led to a wave of birth deformities through negligence in handling a number of toxic dumps.
The plaintiffs in the case allege that the Corby Borough Council failed to properly handle toxic waste from eight to 16 dumps left over from when British Steel operated a plant in the area from the 1930s to the late 1980s. Eighteen families are claiming that prenatal exposure to lead and zinc byproducts and perhaps other toxic compounds led women to give birth to children with abnormalities of the limbs, including the absence of fingers or webbed hands and feet.
The rate of upper and lower limb deformities is 10 times higher in Corby than the rate for the United Kingdom in general.
"We have now got medical reports that rule out alternative explanations for what caused the limb deformities in these children," said Des Collins, lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The case has stirred up memories of the thalidomide scandal of the 1960s, in which women who were prescribed the anti-morning-sickness drug thalidomide gave birth to babies without arms and legs.
According to Joy Shatford, one of the plaintiffs, the air in Corby became noticeably more pungent when the Borough Council began reopening the British Steel Dumps in order to move the waste.
"You could taste it in the air; it was sour, gassy and acidic," she said. "Then it was common knowledge that this was because they were digging up the pits."
Shatford, pregnant at the time, eventually gave birth to a boy with only five fingers -- he had none upon his left hand.
"It was such a shock. I just felt numb," she said. "I was left thinking I must have done something wrong during my pregnancy. But I didn't smoke or drink; I didn't even take an aspirin."
It would be years before Shatford discovered that other mothers in the town were giving birth to children with similar deformities.
"It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened," she said.