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Irish Times - 18-04-07
Toxicologist warns of dangers of burning waste
Marie O'Halloran

Incineration is a "fail-dangerous system" rather than a "fail-safe mechanism", a medical toxicologist has claimed at an An Bord Pleanála hearing.

Prof Vyvyan Howard, chair of bio-imaging at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, told the hearing into the proposed incinerator for the northeast region that up to 80% of dioxin contamination of the land had been caused by the incineration of waste.

Citing a number of studies, including research on the development of foetuses and infants, Dr Howard said there was evidence that global environmental pollutants had an impact, particularly on development.

He said chemicals build up in human bodies and that mothers pass them to their children in the womb and in breast milk, in much greater quantities than adults. One study showed children's IQ levels to be four points lower than normal and prone to infections.

"Are we affecting the whole population?" he asked. "Yes, I think we probably are. The question is what cost does being four points more stupid or more likely to have an infection have?"

Dr Howard appeared for the No to Incineration Alliance, which opposes a development plan by Indaver Ireland seeking permission from the board to build the waste-to-energy incinerator, which would handle 200,000 tonnes of waste a year and generate 16 megawatts of electricity, on a site at Carranstown near Duleek on the Meath-Louth border.

John Ahern, managing director of Indaver Ireland, said Indaver adhered to the recommendations of international and national agencies such as the World Health Organisation, the UN, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food Safety Authority.

He claimed Dr Howard did not relate his evidence much to Indaver's project, and said there was no record of human fatality related to dioxins. He added that while nothing was without risk, "more people die in road accidents in Ireland than from dixoins anywhere in the world".

Dr Howard believed, however, that a number of cancers could be linked to dioxins. He said regulation and measuring of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) had only begun since the WHO first produced its incineration safety pamphlets.

The inspector hearing the appeal, Mary Cunneen, could not give a date for a decision but said that national development projects had priority.

© 2007 The Irish Times


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