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Irish Examiner - 02/02/06
Where will all the toxic ash go?

IAN HARTLEY (Irish Examiner letters, January 26) seeks clarification regarding the toxicity of incinerator emissions.

There are two main types of incineration end product - gaseous emissions to air and ash waste, both of which are highly toxic.

The gaseous emissions contain dioxins, furans, oxides of sulphur, carbon and nitrogen, particulate matter, hydrogen chloride and heavy metals.

Incineration advocates argue that air emissions are greatly reduced by chimney filtration equipment.

However, dioxins and furans are highly toxic at concentrations of nanograms and picograms and no filtration equipment can reduce emissions below these levels.

Even if filtration removed all the dioxins and furans, these poisons would not disappear but would simply remain in the ash. The less toxic the air emissions, the more toxic the residual ash.

What Ireland intends to do with the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of highly toxic ash waste generated by these incinerators has not yet been revealed. It is infinitely more noxious than the original waste and will also have to be buried in the ground. The fly ash portion is particularly hazardous and can only be disposed of in a specially licensed landfill site, but no such facility currently exists in Ireland.

The World Health Organisation labels dioxin a class one carcinogen and states that “in terms of dioxin release into the environment, solid waste incinerators are the worst culprits due to incomplete combustion”.

The 1999 dioxin and furan inventories of the UN environmental programme report that waste incineration is by far the greatest source of dioxin emissions in industrialised countries. The Government, apparently so worried about the dangers of cigarettes, appears unconcerned about turning us all into passive smokers of incinerator fumes.

Patrick McGinnity MVB, MRCVS
Keady
Co Armagh

     

Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment
Bishop's Road, Cobh, Co. Cork
Tel - 021 481 5564      Email - info@chaseireland.org
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