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Incinerator health study findings expected in 2016

Much-delayed set of Public Health England studies looking at health impacts of waste incinerator emissions to be published this year

A wide-ranging set of studies looking into the potential impacts of UK waste incinerator emissions on human health is expected to be published this year, according to Public Health England (PHE).

The PHE project is looking at the health impacts of municipal waste incinerator emissions

The PHE project is looking at the health impacts of municipal waste incinerator emissions

First announced in 2012 in response to public concern over emissions from household waste-burning energy (EfW) plants, it was originally envisaged that the joint UK and Scottish Government research project would publish its findings in March 2014.

However, because of the “unanticipated complexity in gathering dataâ€? the publication date has subsequently been delayed several times. This was reportedly due to having to enter emissions data into an electronic format manually before statistical analysis could begin.

A firm release date for the project’s full findings has still not been set, but PHE has confirmed that they are expected to see the light of day this year.

Dr Ovnair Sepai, from PHE’s Toxicology Department, told AirQualityNews.com: “It is expected that papers from the project will be submitted by SAHSU (Small Area Health Statistics Unit) to peer reviewed journals in 2016, and it is likely to be a few months after submission for the papers to be published.

“It is import to stress that Public Health England’s position that well-run and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health remains valid, and the study is being carried out to extend the evidence base and to provide further information to the public on this subject.â€?

“It is import to stress that Public Health England’s position that well-run and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health remains valid” – Dr Ovnair Sepai, Public Health England

Previous postponements to the publication of the study last year promoted anti-incineration campaign group Breathe Clean Air Group (BCAG) to suggest government was attempting to hide the health impact findings (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Research

The research project is made up of a number of review papers looking at the different possible human health impacts of waste incinerators, with King’s College London and Imperial College London both being funded by PHE and Zero Waste Scotland to carry out the research.

Graphic featured in one of the PHE studies

Graphic featured in one of the PHE studies

In total, the project involves examining areas of up to 5km around 22 incinerators across England, as well as the Dundee Energy Recycling Ltd EfW in Scotland.

The preliminary results of some studies have already been made publicly-available, including one which found “no evidenceâ€? of emissions around four UK facilities: Dudley’s Lister Road incinerator; the former HLC Crymlyn Burrows incinerator near Swansea; Veolia’s Sheffield EfW, and; the SELCHP plant in Lewisham.

However, the study did detect some metal particle emissions within 10km of another two in Wolverhampton and Stockton-on-Tees (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Another review paper forming part of the PHE project looked at 14 previously-published scientific studies on the possible links between incinerator emissions and congenital anomalies (also known as birth defects), but found that the evidence was “inconclusiveâ€? and called for further study (see AirQualityNews.com story).

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