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Health Risk


Julia Lewis

FAMILIES living downwind of incinerators are more at risk from infant death, heart disease, cancer and autism, health researchers claim. Michael Ryan and Dr Dick van Steenis believe babies are more likely to die if they are exposed to fumes from incinerators like the South East London Combined Heat and Power Plant (SELCHPP) in Deptford. The researchers point to Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures showing infant mortality rates ward by ward. Areas downwind of the incinerator in Landmann Way have an infant mortality rate more than four times that of wards upwind of the plant. ONS figures show that, in wards north-east of SELCHP, infant deaths are 7.1 per 1,000 compared with 0.9 per 1,000 south of the plant.

They maintain research carried out in the US backs up their findings but that the Government won’t listen to them. Because of the prevailing westerly wind, they claim, areas to the north-east of an incinerator are most affected by dangerous emissions that contain PM2.5 particles – a cocktail of heavy metals small they can be breathed in. Dr Van Steenis, a retired GP and once adviser to a House of Commons air pollution select committee, said: “There is nothing to screen out PM2.5 particles in the UK and there is no regulation.”
Dr Frederica Perera, professor at New York’s Columbia University and director of Columbia Centre for Children’s Environmental Health, said:“Many studies, including our own, have found that in utero or childhood exposures to PM2.5 particles, or pollutants in the particles, are associated with adverse respiratory health and neuro development in children, and may increase the risk of cancers later on in life. But Chris Smith, of the Government’s Environmental Protection Directorate, said no permit would be issued to an incinerator operator if a health risk was likely. Emissions were tightly controlled under EU limits and incinerators regulated. A spokesman for Environmental Services Association, which represents the waste management industry, said incinerators had to operate to ”extremely high” standards.

plant in Deptford