CONCERNS have been raised that an abnormally high rate of infant mortality in an affluent area of Waltham Forest could be caused by toxic incinerator fumes.

Chingford Green Ward has the second highest number of child deaths relative to its population in the whole of London, according to the most recent figures.

Infant mortality rates are usually found in areas of high deprivation but Chingford Green Ward is the second richest part of the borough.

The ward is close to Britain's largest incinerator in Edmonton and one researcher, Michael Ryan, says he has gathered evidence from across the country that areas situated where toxic emissions start to fall to the ground have a high rate of child deaths.

He says his research has uncovered a similar picture across London, with babies more likely to die if they live close to and downwind of large incinerators.

Dr Dick van Steenis, a former GP and advisor to a House of Commons air pollution select committee, shares Mr Ryan's concerns and has called for tighter regulations to prevent the distribution of PM2. 5 particles, a cocktail of heavy metals small enough to be breathed in.

The latest published figures for infant mortality from 2003-5 show there were 292 live births in Chingford Green and five recorded infant deaths.

This equates to an infant mortality rate of 17.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, three times the average rate for England and Wales.

Infant mortality rates in Waltham Forest are historically high with the borough having the highest child death rate in London as recently as 2001.

A spokeswoman for Waltham Forest Primary Care Trust (PCT) said: "The PCT has requested the data from Mr Ryan and will consider it carefully.

"Improving the health of mothers and their babies is one of the key public health priorities of the PCT.

"Due to the very small numbers involved, infant mortality data is supplied to the PCT on a borough rather than a ward basis, with data pooled over three years."