The work was funded by Public Health England (PHE) and was carried out by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU) at Imperial College and the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London, looking at data gathered between 2003 and 2010 in the attempt to address the ongoing public concern regarding potential hazards to health.
The study used dispersion modelling to estimate the spatial variability of PM10 concentrations at postcodes within 10km of the 22 incinerators in locations including Portsmouth, North and South East London, Sheffield, Dundee and Stockton-on-Tees.
The modelling suggested that there would be ‘Very low’ concentrations of incinerator-related PM10 within 10km of all of the 22 sites studied.
It stated: “While there is public concern regarding potential adverse health effects from MWI (municipal waste incinerators) emissions, findings from epidemiological studies are inconsistent and inconclusive. Most studies have focused on adult cancers and to a lesser extent reproductive and child health outcomes. Exposure assessment has often used simple proxies, adopting proximity to incinerator as the exposure measure.”
The study did predict a statistical correlation with PM10’s and heavy metal compounds which will need further investigation.
Work to assess the plausibility of the low modelled PM10 concentrations showed that: “…while there was some evidence of NOx and PM10 emissions from MWIs being detected at ground level, these were few and often could not be distinguished from other sources such as traffic. This supports the very low contributions of MWI PM10 to background concentrations in areas near MWIs in the present study.”
A spokesman for PHE confirmed that further research on the health impacts of exposure to emissions from energy from waste plants is expected to be submitted for peer review later this year, and could be published before the end of the year.