Ireland’s dioxins come from house fires, not incinerators

A new report shows that Ireland’s incinerators release little dioxin into the environment. Domestic fires and bonfires continue to be the biggest source of dioxin emissions in the country.

The Irish Environmental Protection Agency report shows that Ireland generates relatively low amounts of dioxin, around 93 grams in 2000, down 16% from 1995 to levels that are low by international standards.

The biggest source of dioxins to both air and land is, and is expected to remain, fires such as domestic waste, house and vehicle fires and Halloween bonfires, says the report. “In particular, the burning of waste by households is an apparent problem which the public will have to face up to,” warned Ireland’s Minister for the Environment Martin Cullen. 70% of dioxins are estimated to come from unregulated fires, with domestic waste burning estimated to have released 18 grams of dioxin alone in 2000.

Cullen welcomed the EPA report as an antidote to “misinformation and unnecessary concern” over dioxin emissions from incinerators burning animal and municipal waste. “The issue of dioxins has been emotive and controversial in recent years,” he said, adding that the report would put matters into perspective.

Contrary to assertions that proposed thermal waste treatment plants would greatly increase dioxin emissions, the report shows that in 2000, Ireland’s nine hazardous waste incinerators contributed less than 1% of national dioxin emissions to air, continued Cullen.

The projected annual incineration of one million tonnes of municipal waste by 2010 would still contribute less than 2% of national dioxin emissions to air, says the report. The new EU Directive on Large Combustion Plants will set even stricter limits on emissions from power plants.

Total estimated emissions to air in 2000 were 34 grams, but were projected to fall to 30 grams by 2010, according to the report. Conversely, the 57 grams of dioxin released to land in 2000 are projected to rise to 79 grams in 2010, principally from sewage sludge spread on land (17%), and incinerator ash landfilled in licensed facilities (23%).

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