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Sunday 1st.May 2011

 

Sunday 29th April 2007

INCINERATOR FUMES LINK TO INFANT DEATHS

By Lucy Johnston and Martyn Halle

HUNDREDS of baby deaths a year are being linked to ­pollution emitted by public waste incinerators.

Researchers have established a significantly higher death rate among children up to one year old when they live under smoke from an incinerator chimney.

There is a lower death rate for children who live out of the path of incinerator emissions.

The report comes after a detailed analysis of death rates across the country.

Dr Dick van Steenis, a retired GP who helped head the study, said: “The incinerators are burning all sorts of material from domestic waste to hazardous chemical and radioactive waste.

“The danger comes from the particles released into the atmosphere. They are of a size that can be easily inhaled into the lung where they lodge and cause damage to the body.”

The most damaging particle, known as PM 2.5, is particularly harmful to youngsters he said. “Newborn babies are more likely to succumb to damage from chemical pollutants in these inhaled particles.” He added: “Around every single incinerator, infant mortality rates, asthma rates and autism rates are sky-high.

“That’s if you live under the smoke stream from the chimney. In areas nearby which don’t get the smoke, the death rate is either at the national average or lower.”

The data has been collected from the latest official statistics covering the years 2003 to 2005.

Enfield in north London has the UK’s largest incinerator at Edmonton. The death rate for babies up one year old in west of the ­borough is virtually nil.

But in eastern Enfield, which sits downwind of the incinerator and is exposed to smoke from the chimney, the death rate is between 10 and 12 per thousand of population. The national average death rate for babies up to a year is 5.2 per thousand.

Dr van Steenis said that he had accounted for other factors that could increase the death rate such as social deprivation. He pointed out, for example, that “leafy middle-class areas” of west London were affected by emissions from a big incinerator at Colnbrook near Slough. In some parts around this plant infant mortality rates are treble the national average.

“We compared those areas with nearby well-to-do wards that didn’t get emissions and they were significantly lower than the national average.”

Professor Vyvyan Howard, an expert on environmental pollution from the University of Ulster, said dioxins released in the burning of rubbish had been shown to be cancer causing.

He said that while incinerator filters take out 99 per cent of particles, it is the ultra fine one per cent – the PM 2.5s – that can have chronic effects on health.

London Waste, which owns the Edmonton incinerator, said it had not seen the van Steenis report. A spokesman said: “We use a proven technology with a track record of safe operation and it is recognised throughout Europe as a safe and efficient method of energy generation.

“There is no consistent ­evidence that our facilities cause adverse health effects.

“We continually monitor ­particulates such as PM 2.5s and the levels released are lower than the maximum permitted.”

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