Incinerator emissions ‘not linked to infant mortality risk’

Long-running work to assess the health impact of emissions from waste incinerators has suggested that there is no increased risk of stillbirth, infant mortality or ‘other birth outcomes’ to those living near the facilities.

The conclusions came in a study published last week (22 November), which was funded by Public Health England and carried out by researchers at the Small Area Health Statistics Unit and King’s College London and is believed to be the largest of its kind to date.

The South East London Combined Heat and Power (SELCHP) energy from waste facility was one of 22 plants to be included in the study

It is part of a wider series of studies to investigate the health risk of those living close to municipal waste incinerators in Great Britain – with further findings expected to be published in coming months.

An initial study completed in 2017, concluded that municipal waste incinerators emit a ‘low level’ of air pollutants (see airqualitynews.com story).

Research

Conclusions were based upon modelling of emissions of particulate matter (PM10) – as a proxy for air pollutants more generally – from 22 facilities at locations in England, Scotland and Wales.

The latest component of the study saw researchers assess data relating to birth and infant mortality data in surrounding areas of the same 22 facilities.

A map of the 22 facilities included in the research (source: ScienceDirect report)

Researchers looked at figures recorded between 2003 and 2010 on birthweight, stillbirth, neonatal, post-neonatal and infant mortality as well as other datasets for within 10 km of each of the selected plants. Data relating to over 1,025,000 births and 18,694 infant deaths was included in the study.

According to the researchers, the results of the study show ‘no evidence’ for increased risk of any of the studied birth outcomes in relation to either waste incinerator emissions or living near a facility operating to the current EU emissions regulations.

Evidence

In a version of the study published online last week, researchers wrote: “This large national study found no evidence for increased risk of a range of birth outcomes, including birth weight, preterm delivery and infant mortality, in relation to either MWI [municipal waste incinerator] emissions or living near an MWI operating to the current EU waste incinerator regulations in Great Britain.

“The study should be generalisable to other MWIs operating to similar regulations and with similar waste streams.”

A study into the effects of emissions from energy-from-waste (EfW) plants on human health was first announced in 2012 funded by a grant from Public Health England and the Scottish Government – with findings initially expected in March 2014.

However, Publication of the findings of the research were subsequently hit by a number of delays, in part caused by “unanticipated complexity in gathering data”.

Related Links
Fetal growth, stillbirth, infant mortality and other birth outcomes near UK municipal waste incinerators; retrospective population based cohort and case-control study