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August 14th, 2014:

Residence Near a Municipal Solid Waste Incinerator and Cancer Risk: an Analysis Using a Geographic Information System (GIS)

Marcilio, I; Lopes, M; Prado, R; Souza, M; Gouveia, N


Recent studies have evaluated possible health effects of emissions from solid waste incinerators (SWI). Most of these studies have used the spatial distribution of incinerators and health endpoints to analyse exposure and risk. Lung and liver cancers has shown as the ones with the strongest associations with proximity to SWI. The emissions of the incinerator under investigation included lead, arsenic, dioxin and cadmium. The latter two are considered carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Although this incinerator is located in a densely populated area, there has been no study evaluating the impact of its emission on environmental quality and on health of the population living in its vicinity. This study intends to examine health effects possibly associated with emissions from this SWI among the local population through an epidemiologic investigation using spatial analysis.

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All liver and lung cancer deaths (ICD-10 C22.0; C22.7; C22.9 and ICD-10 C34.0 – C34.9) from 1998 to 2002 among people aged 40 years and older in an area around the SWI were included. All deaths were geocoded using MapInfo 7.8 ®. Deahts were separated in 3 groups, according to their spacial distribution: the reference group comprised those located within a radius of 2km around the incinerator, while comparison groups were within 5 and 7km around it. Age-adjusted mortality rates in each area were calculated, taking into account the respective area population. The Stone test was used to check if differences among rates were statistically significant.

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The area studied included 543.054 people aged 40 years and older. Data about population distribution and number of cancer deaths are presented in Table 01. People living closer to the SWI had a higher risk of dying from lung cancer, and the observed difference was statistically significant, with a Stone test of 1,14 (p=0,04). A gradient was also noted for liver cancer deaths, but the difference was not statistically significant (p=0,07). (Table 02)

Table 1

Table 1


These findings suggests a higher risk of death from lung and liver cancer in the proximity of a municipal solid waste incinerator, with a statistically significant association with lung cancer.

Waste Incinerator in Atsugi, Japan (US Naval Base/Japanese Company)

Waste Incinerator in Atsugi, Japan

Smoke pouring out of a smokestack

From 1985 to 2001, personnel at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi in Atsugi, Japan may have been exposed to environmental contaminants from off-base waste incinerators. The Shinkampo Incinerator Complex (SIC) was a combustion waste disposal equipped with incinerators that burned up to 90 tons of industrial and medical waste daily. Emissions included chemicals and other particulate matter.

A private Japanese company owned and operated the business. The U.S. Navy found a potential for increased health risks and worked with the Japanese government to close the SIC. The incinerator was shut down in May 2001.

If you are concerned about exposures at Atsugi, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.

Health effects from pollution at Atsugi

Short-term health effects could include irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, skin rashes, and sinus problems. These conditions usually went away after the exposure ended. Long-term health effects could include a possible increase in the lifetime risk for cancer.

Since the 1990s, the Navy has informed sailors and their families about the possible long-term health effects of living at Atsugi. Visit the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center website for health information about air quality monitoring and soil testing at Atsugi.

Currently there is no definitive scientific evidence to show that living at NAF Atsugi while the incinerator operated caused additional risk for disease.

Health concerns?

If you are concerned about exposure to environmental contaminants during service at NAF Atsugi, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.

VA offers a variety of health care benefits to eligible Veterans. Not enrolled in the VA health care system? Find out if you qualify for VA health care.

Compensation benefits for health problems

Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to environmental contaminants during service at NAF Atsugi. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis.