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Incinerators double childhood cancer

Incinerators double childhood cancer

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Between 1974 and 1987, twice as many children who lived within 5km of incinerators in the UK died from cancer, compared to those who lived further away, according to new research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.(1)

The study comes on top of others which have found significant increases in cancers, of both adults and children, around incinerators(2) (3). However, because incinerators are often sited in industrial or deprived areas, scientists have been unable to say for sure that it is the toxins from burning mixed waste that are causing these extra cancers. Other industrial pollution or lifestyle factors, such as a poor diet, could be to blame, they say.

But the latest study found that there was no increase in cancer around “non-combustion” sites such as football grounds and biscuit makers. This appears to rule out social factors such as diet. Cancers around hospital incinerators were at similar levels to those around municipal waste incinerators, indicating that incineration could be the common cause. This led the author of the report, Professor George Knox of Birmingham University, to conclude that while nearby sources of industrial pollution might also contribute, the incinerators were “probably carcinogenic”.

The study was based on detailed examination of childhood deaths from cancer around 72 municipal and 307 hospital waste incinerators. Most of the incinerators studied have now been closed and those that remain are subject to tighter controls. However, even the most modern incinerators emit substances known to cause cancer as well as heavy metals and ultra-fine dust particles which can have a range of other health effects. Despite this the Government continues to insist on building new incinerators.

(1) International Journal of Epidemiology, 2000; 29:391-397 (2) Elliot P, Shaddick G, Kleinschmidt I et al Cancer incidence near municipal solid waste incinerators in Great Britain, British Journal of Cancer 1996; 73:702-10 (3) Elliot p, Eaton N, Shaddick G, Carter R, Cancer incidence near municipal solid waste incinerators in Great Britain. Part 2:histopathological and case-note review of primary liver cancer cases, British Journal of Cancer 2000, 82(5), 1103-1106

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