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Incinerator projects could be held up by health impact report

The health impact of incinerators is to be given a fresh look at with a government backed report sparking fears that key energy from waste projects could be de-railed.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) study will begin this April with preliminary results expected in March 2014. HPA will fund scientists at Imperial College London and King’s College London to carry out the study.

A HPA said it stands by its current position that well run and regulated modern Municipal Waste Incinerators (MWI) are not a significant risk to public health. It said that the study is being carried out to extend the evidence base and provide further information to the public.

“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,” said HPA chief executive Justin McCracken

“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.

“However, we recognise that there are public concerns about this issue and this study will provide valuable new evidence.”

The Study’s remit:

- For a distance of up to 10-15 kms from MWIs operating in the 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.

- Emissions exposure will be estimated by dispersion modelling using data from MWIs that is provided to the Environment Agency as required by their Environmental Permits.

- Areas with good data on congenital anomalies are those with a high quality register. These areas include the North East of England, the West and East Midlands, Wessex and Wales. 

- The study will examine the risk to all congenital anomalies, including separate analysis of subsets such as: cleft lip, cleft palate, major heart defects, respiratory defects and anomalies of the neural tube, abdominal wall, or urinary tract.

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