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Incinerators pose significantly low threat to public health, according to Health Protection Agency

Modern, well managed incinerators make only a small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants, the Health Protection Agency believes.

In the HPA report The Impact on Health of Emissions to Air from Municipal Waste Incinerators, it says: It is possible that such small additions could have an impact on health but such effects, if they exist, are likely to be very small and not detectable.

This conclusion will calm fears that incinerators are damaging to health, as the report states that previous studies showing incinerators do cause health effects have been carried out on older incinerators with less stringent emission standards.

An agency spokesman said: The evidence suggests that air pollution from incinerators makes up a fraction of one per cent of the countrys particulate emissions. Industry and traffic account for more than fifty per cent.

European Union directives aimed at minimising landfill are leading to an increased use of incineration, and research suggests that this will not cause any significant adverse health effects.

The agency therefore does not believe that studies of public health around individual incinerators are scientifically justifiable.

A 2004 study carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, reviewing pollutants in the air remains the most extensive in the field, according to the HPA. Since this time, they believe the evidence base has not significantly changed, therefore a fresh study was not necessary.

Additionally, the Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment has reviewed recent data, also concluding that the potential risk of cancer due to residency near to municipal waste incinerators is exceedingly low and probably not measurable by the most modern techniques.

Environmental Services Association chief executive Dirk Hazell said: Our industry has known for many years that it is safe to produce electricity and heat from waste in our members very strictly regulated facilities in the UK.

We welcome the broader reassurance given to the public by this important statement and hope local authorities will now feel able to move more rapidly with this sustainable technology which has an important contribution to make to Britains future energy security.

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