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Submitted by admin on Nov 30th 2012, 12:00am



Howard Winn

Spain and the ‘c’ word

Those at the Environmental Protection Department that are brooding over Hong Kong’s future policy waste management would do well to take a look at a study on the impact on towns close to incinerators and hazardous waste facilities in Spain.

The EPD is supposed to be undertaking a reappraisal of its waste disposal arrangements since the shelving of the proposed Shek Kwu Chau incinerator project. However, the project has not been axed and land appraisal work is continuing at the location.

The Spanish study published in the October edition of Environment International wanted to assess the risk of dying from cancer in towns close to incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste. In the case of incinerators the report found that “high statistically significant excess risks were detected in towns … near to incinerators”.

It said people were exposed to pollutants released directly to the air and from indirect exposure through water that passes toxins into the soil and aquifers. Proximity to incinerators leads to “excess risk for all cancers combined and for lung cancer, and in particular, marked increase in the risk of tumours of the pleura and gallbladder (men) and stomach (women)”.

There was also “excess risk of tumour of the ovary and brain” for women living close to incinerators. None of the information from this study or other related studies is mentioned in the environmental impact assessment study for Hong Kong’s incinerator project.

Meanwhile Macau is getting twitchy about the health impact of its incinerator. The Macau government has commissioned Chinese University to conduct a 10-year study into the health of residents in Ka Ho where people have been complaining of illness due to air pollution from ash from the incinerator.

The Food and Health Bureau became alarmed last year when hundreds of residents, many of them students and teachers in nearby schools, complained of lung and respiratory problems after contractors were found to have broken safety regulations by allowing ash to disperse into the atmosphere.

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