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Air pollution stunting children’s lungs, study finds

A six-year study finds children living in highly polluted parts of cities have up to 10 per cent less lung capacity than normal, with warnings the damage could be permanent

High levels of air pollution are stunting the growth of children’s lungs, a major study has found.

Eight and nine-year-olds living in cities with high levels of fumes from diesel cars have up to 10 per cent les lung capacity than normal, the research suggests.

Over six years, researchers examined the lung function of 2,400 children at 25 schools across east London, and found a direct correlation between air pollutant exposure and reduced lung growth.

Such children have an increased risk of disease such as asthma and bronchitis and, and the prospect of a permanent reduction in lung capacity.

The tests checked the volume of air each child could breathe, as well as levels of inflammation in their lungs, with urine tests to check for heavy metals, which are produced by vehicles.

Overall, those living in areas with high levels of particulates and nitrogen dioxide had up to 10 per cent reduced lung capacity the study led by Prof Chris Griffiths, principal investigator at the Medical Research Council and Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma.

“The data shows that traffic pollution stops children’s lungs growing properly,” Ian Mudway, a respiratory toxicologist at King’s College London told the Sunday Times.

“The evidence suggests that by 8-9 years old, children from the most polluted areas have 5 to 10 per cent less lung capacity and they may never get that back.”

The study was designed to assess the impact of London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which since 2008 has discouraged larger diesel vehicles such as lorries from entering the capital.

The research found the measure had made no difference.

“It is very disappointing that the LEZ, which was specifically designed as a major public health intervention, has so far brought about no change,” said Prof Griffiths.

“This raises questions over the government’s current consultation on air quality, which is based around the idea of creating similar low emission zones in up to 30 other polluted urban areas. There appears to be no evidence that these low emission zones can reduce pollution or improve health.”

Other studies have shown diesel pollutants causing lung inflammation, researchers said, with tests showing black carbon from diesel exhaust emissions inside children’s lung cells.

Earlier this year research suggested that air pollution could increase the risk of brain damage and small strokes which are linked to dementia.

Environmental groups say diesel cars could be phased out as part of Government efforts to address pollution.

The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy

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Durkan explains Hightown incinerator rejection

The No-Arc21 group was set up to oppose plans for an incinerator at Hightown Quarry. INLT 40-650-CON

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has explained why he rejected planners’ recommendation to approve a waste incinerator at Mallusk. Mr Durkan said he made the decision to refuse planning permission for the Hightown quarry incinerator proposal after assessing the details presented to him, and addressing the opposition from the community. “I have carefully considered all the information before me. I have listened to the concerns of local people and their public representatives. To date there have been 3526 objections and one petition of objection with 836 signatures,” he stated. The minister believed the incinerator may have been detrimental to recycling if it had been allowed to go ahead.

“I am committed to a policy of zero waste and have worked hard with councils to increase recycling rates. I want this to continue. This development could result in an increased market for waste disposal and to maintain a facility such as this, in addition to the other approved waste facilities, could discourage recycling. In that context I do not consider there to be any need for this proposal,” Mr Durkan added.

NoArc21 campaigned strongly against the plans to construct the incinerator, and have welcomed the news that planning permission has not been approved.

Chairman of the group, Colin Buick said: “Over a number of years we have continuously highlighted the facts that arc21’s proposed incinerator is not needed, and, given its inappropriate location, would have a hugely negative impact on surrounding families. Today’s decision justifies our concerns and those of the 3500 people who have objected to the application.”

“We now call on arc21 to accept the Minister’s decision and to respect the views and concerns of thousands of local people in the Mallusk area and beyond,” Mr Buick added.

Alderman Mark Cosgrove was pleased with the decision to reject the planning permission and praised the efforts made by NoArc21.

“The people of Glengormley and Mallusk will be relieved at this announcement, but I believe that it was of vital strategic importance for the waste management sector in the whole of Northern Ireland. I want to pay a particular tribute to Colin Buick and his team from right across the Greater Mallusk and Glengormley area who led the community objections in such a professional and coherent manner,” the Ulster Unionist representative said.

DUP Councillor Matthew Magill praised the efforts made by NoArc21.

“I want to pay tribute to those from the local community who established the NoArc21 opposition campaign and who have spearheaded the fight against this proposal. Their campaign has received cross party and community support since its inception and as both a Mallusk resident and an elected representative for the area, I thank them for all their efforts. This decision has been a victory for local people,” he said.

SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness said the announcement reflected the strong campaign mounted by local residents and was a testament to those who have opposed the proposed £240m development.

He said: “This is a very welcome decision from the Environment Minister. Local residents have campaigned passionately against locating an incinerator here and Mark H Durkan listened.

“To propose an incinerator plant so close to several large residential developments, schools and an area of high scenic value like the Belfast Hills was fatally misguided. The response of local people has been impressive, proportionate and entirely justified. The SDLP will continue to support them.

“It’s important now that the arc21 councils take due regard of this decision and the views of those who have campaigned for so long. Waste management should be based on green, environmentally friendly alternatives to incineration. Their entire approach requires a fundamental rethink.

“Today’s decision is a testament to the fortitude of local people in the Hightown and Mallusk area and to the willingness of the Minister to seriously take account of the needs and circumstances of this community. I want to again congratulate them and thank the Minister for diligently listening to their case.”

Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Noreen McClelland added: “I’m delighted with this decision. I’ve been working closely with residents since the campaign began and their hard work has now paid off. This is good news for local people, the local community and our environment.”

South Antrim DUP MLA, Pam Cameron has also warmly welcomed confirmation that planning permission is not being granted to the arc21 proposal.

She said: “The site is located in a heavily populated area and there has been a huge amount of opposition from people living in the local area.

“The proposed incinerator at the site of the old Hightown Quarry was highly controversial for host of reasons and was opposed by over 3000 local residents.

“The need to reduce landfill waste is of paramount importance and for that reason I found it difficult to comprehend that the focus was on developing a plant to incinerate that waste rather than encouraging further recycling, reusing and repurposing initiatives.

“Whilst no one can argue with the need to reduce the amount of domestic and commercial waste we send to landfill; particularly given the European Directives and penalties for non-compliance, the entire proposal was quite simply was not safe, not sustainable and not wanted and confirmation that planning approval will not be granted should mean the search for alternative ways to deal with waste begins.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to commend the work of the No-Arc21 group for their tireless efforts to ensure that this issue has remained to the forefront in the area and thank them for their diligent determination to ensure that awareness was raised.”

Digest of Waste and Resource Statistics – 2015 Edition

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‘Cover up’ claim as incinerator study postponed

Research into effects of waste incineration on human health will be postponed after data had to be ‘manually’ entered

A study aiming to establish whether there is a link between modern municipal waste incinerator emissions and health defects has been postponed until 2015, in what the Breathe Clean Air Group has labelled a government ‘cover-up’.

The research, which was due to be published in March 2014, was approved by the Health Protection Agency in January last year to extend the evidence base and provide further information to the public.

The study involves examining areas of up to 15km around 22 incinerators across England, including Grundon’s Lakeside energy-from-waste facility, the SELCHP plant in Lewisham, the London Waste Edmonton incinerator and SITA UK’s Tees Valley plant in Billingham.

Scientists hope to determine if there is a potential link between incinerator emissions and health outcomes, such as low birth weight, still births and infant deaths.

In addition, a Dundee-based incinerator has also been included in the study, with working relating to the plant funded by a grant from the Scottish Government.

But Public Health England, which is funding King’s College London and Imperial College London to carry out the study, today revealed the preliminary results would not be available until 2015 due to the ‘unanticipated complexity in gathering data’ – caused by having to enter emissions data into an electronic format manually before statistical analysis could begin.

Commenting on the postponement, Pete Kilvert, chairman of the anti-incinerator Breathe Clean Air Group – said he feared the government would instruct the research teams to take ‘an average’ sample around each incinerator rather than look at the consequences on people living ‘downwind’ of each facility.

He said: “The Government is hell bent on burning the country’s waste and telling us that it won’t do us any harm. When waste such as plastics, metals and organic material are burnt at low temperatures, then new chemicals such as dioxins and heavy metals will settle out into our community.”

Public Health England today said it continues to stand by its position that well run and regulated municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health.

Commenting on the delay, Dr Simon Bouffler, deputy director of Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, said: “It was originally envisaged that preliminary results for this study would be available by March 2014 but because of the unanticipated complexity in gathering data this has been delayed.

“A paper with preliminary results is now expected to be prepared for submission to a peer-reviewed journal around the end of 2014, with publication in 2015.”

He added: “Some of the data on emissions from MWIs were unexpectedly held in paper format rather than in electronic files, and had to be entered manually onto computer before the statistical analysis could begin. There was a delay while this process took place.”

Advanced Biological Treatment of Municipal Solid Waste

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