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Irish Examiner - 22-01-04
Health fears puts pressure on incinerator go-ahead

By Mary Dundon Political Reporter – Irish Examiner

PRESSURE was mounting on the Government last night to stop the State’s first toxic waste incinerator being built after two new studies found an increased incidence of stillbirths, deaths and heart disease in the vicinity of incinerators.The Irish Doctors Environmental Association are furious with An Bord Pleanála for giving the go-ahead to the €95 million toxic waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, against the advice of their own senior planner. They want Environment Minister Martin Cullen to change the guidelines covering legal smoke emissions from incinerators, claiming current regulations do not provide protection against serious health risks.

"Two recent medical journal reports have revealed that the level of legal emissions from incinerators here are too high and could lead to death from heart disease, stillbirths and post-natal deaths," said Irish Doctors Environmental Association spokeswoman Dr Elizabeth Cullen.

The guidelines covering legal smoke emissions from incinerators state that a certain amount of particulate matter (pm) of 10 microns in size is allowable. However, the medical journal, Circulation, has just released a new survey that questions the Irish regulations on emissions, according to Dr Cullen.

The Circulation's ongoing study of more than half a million participants showed that air pollution from particulate matter (pm) less than 2.5 microns in size produced by incineration was important in determining the risk of death from heart disease. "This study found that air pollution from particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size posed a serious health hazard and there are no statutory guidelines covering the level of these emissions here," said Dr Cullen. The second medical journal study investigated congenital anomalies, still births and deaths shortly after birth, and found an increased incidence of these in the vicinity of incinerators, said Dr Cullen. This study was carried out by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

A recent Health Research Board survey here has also found we do not have adequate surveillance methods to detect adverse health effects from incineration.

"The United States has already changed its law on legal emissions from incinerators down to particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size because of the proven serious health risks and we must do the same here," said Dr Cullen.

The Irish Doctors Environmental Association are now writing to Mr Cullen to ask him to change the guidelines covering legal smoke emissions from incinerators in order to prevent serious health repercussions.

A Department of the Environment spokesman said they will await the letter from the Irish Doctors Environmental Association and respond to it in due course.

However, the department spokesman said that the recent Health Research Board study found there was no link between thermal incineration and cancer. The World Health Organisation, which monitors incineration, has found thermal treatment the method that will be used in Ringaskiddy is acceptable, added the department.
     

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