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Waste Disposal: Health Hazards

Health written question – answered on 19th October 2012.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department has taken since the investigation by the Health Protection Agency in 2003 into clusters of diseases linked to long-term exposure to chemicals from landfill sites and incinerators.

Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has assessed “the impact on health of emissions to air from municipal waste incinerators”. The agency concluded that modern, well-managed incinerators make only a small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants. It stated that it is possible that such small additions could have an impact on health but such effects, if they exist, are likely to be very small and not detectable.

The HPA has also considered “the impact on health of emissions from landfill sites”. It concluded that a well-managed modern landfill site does not pose a significant risk to human health.

Both documents can be found on the HPA's website at: C/1251473372218 C/1309969974126

Does this answer the above question?

Yes0 people think so

No2 people think not

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Michael Ryan
Posted on 24 Oct 2012 1:56 pm (Report this annotation)

In 2008, I used the Freedom of Information Act to ask the Health Protection Agency for a list of the incinerators around which they'd examined rates of illness and rates of premature deaths at all ages at electoral ward level and compared the upwind wards with the downwind wards.

The reply came back that they'd not examined such data around any incinerator and the HPA's negligence was reported in both the Dorking Advertiser and the Surrey Mirror on 22 May 2008.

In May 2004, a major study of infant deaths around 63 municipal incinerators in Japan was published and the conclusion starts as follows:

“Our study shows a peak-decline in risk with distance from the municipal solid waste incinerators for infant deaths and infant deaths with all congenital malformations combined.”
(J Epidemiol. 2004 May;14(3):83-93.)

Instead of being alerted by the above Japanese study, the HPA chose to do nothing - and yet carried on advising Primary Care Trusts and the Environment Agency that health effects of incineration were small - as repeated above by Ms Soubry - and that advice, which wasn't based on any evidence of "lack of harm to health" has meant that many incinerators have been wrongly issued with IPPC permits and that the Planning Inspectorate have been duped into ignoring health concerns about incinerators because the HPA have no concerns.

Michael Ryan
Posted on 28 Dec 2012 5:09 pm (Report this annotation)

ONS data shows that infant mortality rates which had previously been falling in the London Boroughs of Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets, and Wandsworth continued to fall in Wandsworth after SELCHP incinerator became operational, but ceased falling in the other three Boroughs which were all exposed to incinerator emissions.

Wandsworth is "upwind" of SELCHP.