An investigation into the health impacts of flaring at Mossmorran has found it has had an unacceptable impact on the surrounding communities.
A report published by NHS Fife last week stated that flaring had caused “a considerable degree of physical and psychological disturbance” to people living in the area and the health authority urged bosses to do everything in their power to reduce their frequency, duration and intensity.
Analysing the 900 complaints received by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) during a five day long period of flaring by ExxonMobil in April and May, NHS Fife said a total of 291 referred to the health impact.
Experts said sleep disturbance, annoyance, anxiety and stress caused to residents as a result of the process could cause or aggravate ill health.
However, the report said there was no evidence of higher than expected rates of cancer in the communities surrounding the plants, and indicated that data could be analysed further in the future if concerns persisted.
The report also said there was no evidence of significant impact in terms of air quality.
The health board’s report concluded: “It is our view that the overall impact of flaring on people local to Mossmorran in recent years has not been acceptable and could plausibly affect health in the widest sense.
“NHS Fife would therefore recommend that every reasonable effort to be made to reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of these events.”
Linda Holt, spokesperson for the Mossmorran Action Group, said: “There cannot be a shred of doubt that when Mossmorran flares, it’s bad for its neighbours’ health.
“It is disgraceful that it has taken 34 years for the authorities to listen to residents and acknowledge the obvious.
“This study is only a first step. It is a limited desktop analysis of complaints about pollution to an environmental regulator during a short timeframe. Many people affected will not have contacted SEPA or thought health a relevant factor.
“The study admits that more research and analysis on cancer rates in the Mossmorran area and on flaring by ethylene plants is needed.
“It is now time for the Scottish Government to heed the cross-party call for a properly-resourced independent study to establish the full health, social and environmental impacts of the plant.”
Stuart Neill, external affairs manager for ExxonMobil, said: “We fully understand the need to address any community concerns associated with flaring and are already delivering our Best Available Techniques programme.”
He said the action plan “will not only reduce the frequency of flaring but also noise, light and vibration on the occasions when we need to use the flare”.
He added the firm is also investing an additional £140m in modernisation and maintenance at the plant.