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Irish Examiner - 19/02/05
Birth defects linked to incinerator dioxins
By Mary Dundon, Political Reporter

BABIES and children are 25 times more exposed to the dangers of dioxins emitted by toxic waste incinerators than adults, a paediatrician warned yesterday.

Dr Gavin ten Tusscher said studies showed babies in the womb and children exposed to incinerator dioxins suffered a plethora of illnesses ranging from birth defects, cancer and leukaemia to poor lung functions, liver damage and retardation of sexual and brain development.

“There is no safe minimum exposure to dioxins at the moment - dioxins do not belong in the body and any exposure is too much,” Dr ten Tusscher said.

The Dutchman was giving evidence on the fifth day of the Environmental Protection Agency’s oral hearing into the granting of a draft licence to build a e93 million toxic waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork. Dr Ten Tusscher is an expert on the effects of dioxins in children and a member of the European Commission’s Technical Working Group on Biomonitoring in Children.

He said the biggest risk group were babies in the womb and young children because dioxins were passed to them through the placenta and breast-feeding.

The birth defects include defective penises, no testicles, small brains and hair lips, he said.

“Studies have also shown that brain development is retarded by an average of three and half years in children exposed to dioxins,” Dr Ten Tusshcer said.

He added that there is evidence that health defects can be passed down to future generations.

Appealing to the EPA not to sanction Ireland’s first toxic waste incinerator, Dr ten Tusscher said: “It is not wise to risk the health and development of your children - why risk damaging your beautiful and clean country?”

Indaver Ireland, the company proposing to build the incinerator, acknowledged dioxins were hazardous. But spokesman Brendan Slattery said the plant proposed for Ringaskiddy would produce levels of dioxins that were not hazardous.

Mr Slattery said the EPA had stated that if the seven proposed incinerators were built they would account for just 2% of all dioxins produced in Ireland.

A chemist giving evidence on behalf of Indaver Ireland, Dr Edward Porter, said he measured air quality at Ringaskiddy over three months and did a computer model of emissions recommended by the EU Directive on incineration.

“We calculated the air quality in Ringaskiddy assuming that the incinerator was operating and found that even with the incinerator operating, the air quality would still be better than in Cork city,” Dr Porter said.

Dr Porter said he also used meteorological data from Cork Airport and Roches Point over five years in the computer model, which showed air quality was good with an incinerator operating.

A bid by Kinsale Environmental Watch to have the oral hearing adjourned to seek a High Court ruling on whether a the relevant EPA official should present themselves for cross-examination was refused by chairman Dr Jonathan Derham.

     

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