- September 27, 2019
- Posted by: Vaughan Gething AM
- Category: Latest News
I have been contacted by a number of constituents about the plans to build an energy from waste plant in Wentloog. I have been in contact with Public Health Wales to raise concerns over the potential health impact. I will also be meeting Natural Resources Wales within the next ten days. The consultation has been extended until the 4th November, please do get involved with the consultation by clicking here.
This is the response from Public Health Wales.
Public Health Wales concurs with the Public Health England position that “Modern, well managed incinerators are not a significant risk to public health. While it is not possible to rule out adverse health effects from modern, well-regulated municipal waste incinerators with complete certainty, any potential health effects to those living close-by are 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. Public Health England offers more detailed information on health and incineration here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/municipal-waste-incinerators-emissions-impact-on-health
The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment has also previously reviewed cancer data in the context of incinerator emissions and has concluded that any potential risk of cancer due to residency near to municipal waste incinerators is exceedingly low and probably not measurable by the most modern techniques. As such, this review supports the above public health position on incineration and health.
More recently the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU) of Imperial College London was commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) and Scottish Government to carry out research on the health effects of incineration operations. Welsh Government and Public Health Wales were invited to engage in general commissioning meetings given the interest in reports published by SAHSU where reference is made to Wales and/or use of data from Wales. Three peer-review papers were published through this commissioned research activity.
The first two papers, published in November 2018 and May 2019, found no evidence of an increased risk of infant mortality for children living close to Municipal Waste Incinerators (MWIs). These papers drew on Wales data. The third and final paper in the series (published in June 2019), found no evidence of increased risk of congenital anomalies from exposure to municipal waste incinerators (MWI) emissions, but suggested there is a small potential increase in risk of congenital anomalies for children born within ten kilometres of MWIs. However, it is not possible to link this conclusion directly to incineration given the possibility for residual confounding. A causal association between the increased risk of congenital anomalies for children born close to MWIs has not been established. Caution is therefore advised in interpreting and communicating the results of the study, especially given that data used in the latest study related to the period 2003 to 2010 and findings are not representative of current incinerator technology (which has evolved considerably since). It should be noted that the latest SASHU research used an observational approach where it is only possible to explore relationships between hazards and health outcomes; it cannot show that a hazard actually causes an effect. This third study did not use or make reference to any Wales data.
Taking these most recent studies into account, the public health position on incineration and health remains valid.