Scots admit to 'uncertainties' on health implications of incineration

A report for the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has found 'too many uncertainties' make it difficult to rule on the effects on human health of incineration.

The work, launched by SEPA and carried out by Health Protection Scotland is designed to help Scotland's environment watchdog improve the regulation of thermal treatment of waste facilities.

Its report Incineration of waste and reported human health effects was released this week.

Any health effects on people living near incinerator plant are 'likely to be small' according to the report.

However it also states, after looking at a range of previous studies, that 'due to many uncertainties it is difficult to be definitive about the health effects'.

The report goes on today's incinerators are subject to 'much stricter legislative controls' and have improved technology with reduced levels of airborne emissions.

So that any adverse health effects 'would be very small if detectable' according to the research.

SEPA's director of environmental and organisational strategy, Calum MacDonald, said: "SEPA acknowledges this review of the currently available evidence on human health effects associated with the thermal treatment of waste.

"The thermal treatment of waste, in the form of incineration, is one of several options for the disposal of waste in the Scottish Government's Zero Waste plan currently out for consultation.

"Present controls are designed to protect human health and are precautionary due to the level of uncertainty, SEPA will continue to apply the precautionary approach when regulating new and existing thermal treatment plants, and will take any new evidence into account."

Luke Walsh


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