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Incinerator particle risks are ignored at our peril

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Western Morning News

It is a well known fact that dozens of new incinerators are poised to
spring up all over Britain and the public are entitled to ask why is the
UK so far behind the United States in concerns over possible health
risks to the public.

Incineration of waste, apart from destroying valuable resources,
produces emissions including fine particles known as PM2.5 (in diameter)
and these can be absorbed straight into the blood.

In 1997 the United States passed tough new laws requiring coal-fired
power stations and incinerators to measure PM2.5 continually and control

The new laws followed a series of articles in the New England Journal of
Medicine including studies from the Harvard Air Effects Institute which
found a strong association with overall mortality, cardiovascular deaths
and lung cancer.

The regulations were unsuccessfully challenged by the power companies
and were upheld by the US Supreme Court as the evidence of the dangers
of PM2.5 was undeniable.

In this country, by contrast, the Health Protection Agency has
repeatedly said that modern incinerators when well run cause very little
damage to public health. This has suited the government because
incinerators, although expensive when built and financed with Private
Finance Initiative (PFI) results in the government having to pay less EU
landfill tax. It is interesting to note that there is no evidence of any
HPA research into the dangers of PM2.5 from incinerators available to
the UK public. I wonder why.

In 2009-2010 the Commons Environmental Audit Committee did put out a
report stating that “the costs and health impacts of fine particle PM2.5
air pollution is almost twice that of obesity and physical inactivity”.
To fulfil the Environment Agency operating permit PM2.5 are not
continually measured and incinerator companies have only to send
measurements from their emission stacks once a year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admits to having
62 monitoring stations across the UK for PM2.5, particle emissions, none
of them anywhere near an incinerator.

I wonder why.

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