Report Says Health Hazards Linked to Waste Incinerators

May 15, 2001
A report, "Incineration and Human Health," released by Greenpeace\r\ntoday identifies more than a dozen serious health effects experienced\r\nby workers and local communities at or near incinerators.

A report, "Incineration and Human Health," released by Greenpeace today identifies more than a dozen serious health effects experienced by workers and local communities at or near incinerators.

The health effects include different forms of cancer, respiratory illnesses and birth defects.

Incinerator workers and children living near these facilities are among the groups that have been shown to experience these diseases.

In addition, one of the more than 300 studies and papers cited by Greenpeace was a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study which concluded that even the latest EPA regulations designed for incinerators "may not adequately reduce risks attributable to cumulative emissions on a regional basis."

It is the cumulative emissions from all incinerators that threatens the general population, even thousands of miles from an incinerator, according to the NAS study.

NAS found that "pollutants emitted by incinerators that appear to have the potential to cause the largest health effect are particulate matter, lead, mercury and dioxins and furans."

NAS also noted that different types of incinerators -- municipal solid waste, medical waste or hazardous waste -- all emit similar pollutants.

Furthermore, Greenpeace said its report reveals that incinerator emissions, such as dioxins have been shown to have widely contaminated air, water and food supplies, passing pollutants on to people through milk, meat and other fatty animal products.

Finally, Greenpeace''s report attempts to correct the idea that incinerators reduce waste. Its report shows that when all outputs from incinerators are added up, including all air emissions, ash and wastewater, they exceed all waste inputs.

Greenpeace said the findings of this report are especially relevant now as the Senate will soon consider the ratification of a global chemical treaty on pollutants known as POPs (persistent organic pollutants) which includes dioxins and PCBs.

The POPs treaty will be signed in Stockholm May 22-23.

President Bush said the United States would sign the treaty but the White House has yet to push the Senate for a vote or announced plans to implement the treaty.

"To achieve the elimination of dioxins and furans mandated by the POPs treaty, all forms of incineration will have to be phased out and replaced with comprehensive recycling programs for municipal waste and materials substitution policies that eliminate the root sources of dioxin pollution," said Greenpeace.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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