A new study to further extend the evidence base as to whether emissions from modern well run Municipal Waste Incinerators affect human health has been approved by the Health Protection Agency
The HPA's current position that well run and regulated modern Municipal Waste Incinerators (MWIs) are not a significant risk to public health remains valid, but the study is being carried out to extend the evidence base and to provide further information to the public on this subject.
The HPA will be funding the Small Area Health Statistics Unit, Imperial College London, and the Environmental Research Group, King's College London, both part of the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health, to carry out the study.
For a distance of up to 10-15 kilometres from MWIs operating in England and Wales, scientists will research whether there is a potential link between the emissions from MWIs and health outcomes, including: low birth weight, still births and infant deaths.
Researchers will also investigate any possible link between MWI emissions and babies born with congenital anomalies, such as cleft palate and spina bifida, in areas where good quality data is available.
HPA chief executive Justin McCracken said: "It is important to stress that our current position on the potential health effects of well run and regulated modern Municipal Waste Incinerators remains valid. This is that while it is not possible to rule out adverse health effects from modern, well-regulated municipal waste incinerators with complete certainty, any potential damage to the health of those living close-by is likely to be very small, if detectable. This view is based on detailed assessments of the effects of air pollutants on health and on the fact that modern and well-managed municipal waste incinerators make only a very small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants.
"However, we recognise that there are public concerns about this issue and this study will provide valuable new evidence. HPA continually seeks to review and extend the evidence base on which it bases its advice. We are therefore delighted to support this new study with researchers from the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health."
UK waste management company, Viridor, commented on an announcement: "The science on this issue is reassuring," said, Dan Cooke, Viridor's external affairs manager. "As the Health Protection Agency made clear in 2011 and has again restated, modern, well run and regulated energy from waste facilities make only a small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants and therefore do not pose a significant risk to human health.
"With energy from waste a key component of UK sustainable waste management, it is right to both continually assess evidence-based research from around the globe in addition to refreshing UK studies to offer further reassurance to government, regulators and communities. The scientific basis of this proposed project is sensible and Viridor is fully supportive of such robust studies.
"UK waste policies clearly identify the need for essential new recycling and recovery infrastructure and waste planning policy continues to recognise this need. The proposed research should therefore have no impact on development proposals across the UK.