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An update by Michael Ryan after discussion with Dr Dick van Steenis MBBS.

Enviros and other consultants could be promoting plasma gasification as a safe alternative to incineration - as used in other countries, but are stuck with the dirty old technology of incineration.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency wanted a plasma gasification system to deal with the waste after hurricanes Rita and Katrina.


border image Incinerators: A few home truths border image

DEFRA hide behind 'duff' incinerator consultants

Consultants, such as Enviros Ltd., provide reports on incinerator emissions to operators, such as WRG, and also to government departments, such as DEFRA according to their website.

There is widespread ignorance about the actual, but hidden, adverse health effects of incinerators and it is essential to expose and rebut the platitudes which are offered by “experts”, but which lack data or independent references.

Here are a series of letters [Click here] taken from the Shropshire Star which demonstrate that the “expertise” offered to DEFRA and WRG by Enviros Ltd. is flawed and companies such as WRG should be scrapping incinerator plans and promoting plasma-gasification instead as the only safe option for waste disposal. The only true Zero Waste system is plasma gasification, which produces no hazardous ash - just electricity, recyclable vitirified gravel and hydrogen, and there should be no health damage from emissions.

Incinerators emit PM2.5 particulates, which usually contain heavy metals, PAHs and sometimes radioactive waste [in 2002, there were 34 incinerators in England & Wales that were authorised to burn radioactive waste]. These pass through abatement systems and are totally unregulated and not measured in the UK. The content is worse for health owing to hazardous fuel as well as hazardous content, often imported. These PM2.5s are breathed in and the soluble parts pass through the body causing widespread health damage.

Ineffective action groups

Anti-incinerator action groups should be aware that Dr Dick van Steenis “saw off” WRG at the 2003 public inquiry for an incinerator at Hull. WRG, and others allegedly against WRG, seem reluctant to allow Dr van Steenis to speak at a public meeting in Norwich where WRG now propose to build an incinerator. [Click here to read Norwich Evening News article, 26 May, 2006] These losing action groups refuse to make use of Dr van Steenis' professional expertise as they seem to appear to enjoy losing.

At the time of writing [14 June 2006], it is unknown if Jonathan Davies of Enviros will speak against Dr van Steenis and Michael Ryan at Norwich, Slough, London, Shrewsbury or anywhere. 

Margaret Stoklosinski, formerly a Councillor at Slough, was notably the only Councillor to voice concern over the incinerators that are now under construction. Slough was a relatively healthy location in 1990, the year that Grundon’s incinerator at Colnbrook was built. By 2001, the standardised mortality ratio [SMR] for all persons in Slough had soared to SMR=121 from the low figure of SMR=88 in 1990. Readers of The Times [1 December 2003] might recall Slough being exposed as having the highest premature death rate from heart disease in the south east. Slough’s Public Health Director, Dr Don Sinclair, knew all about the adverse health effects from incineration because Dr Dick van Steenis explained it in person at a meeting in September 2003 when Dr van Steenis had been invited by Dr Jerry Thompson, one of many GPs in Slough who should all have been aware that Slough’s health was already in free-fall. [Click here to read Slough Express article, 23 October, 2003]

There are six Unitary Authorities in Berkshire. According to Berkshire Public Health Network’s 2003 data supplement, Slough had the highest [out of the six]:

  1. stillbirth rate in 2000
  2. percentage of low birth weight live births, both < 1500 grams and < 2500 grams in 2000
  3. mortality from “all causes” for all ages: 1998-2000
  4. mortality from all causes, ages 15-64: 1998-2000
  5. mortality from “all causes”, ages 65-74: 1998-2000
  6. mortality from circulatory diseases, all ages: 1998-2000
  7. mortality from coronary heart disease, all ages: 1998-2000
  8. mortality from both lung and stomach cancer, all ages: 1998-2000
  9. mortality from suicide and undetermined injury, all ages: 1998-2000

If the suicide rate is high, it’s reasonable to assume that the rate of depression will also be high. The above Berkshire report has a histogram on page 50 showing age standardised average annual years of life lost (YLL) per 10,000 resident population aged under 75 years and Sough is worse than the average for Berkshire for the following 10 parameters, out of the 17 listed:

  1. All malignant neoplasms [i.e. cancers]
  2. All circulatory disease
  3. CHD [coronary heart disease]
  4. Breast cancer
  5. Lung cancer
  6. Suicide & undetermined injury
  7. Stroke
  8. Liver disease & cirrhosis
  9. Stomach cancer
  10. Diabetes

All of the above are included in Dr van Steenis' publised reports among the many illnesses caused by industrial PM2.5 emissions, and yet are ignored by incinerator action groups. It was also 'overlooked' by Dr Jerry Thompson in his latest report, where he should have used Slough as a case study to show how an incinerator had wrecked the health of his own community, and others, from 1990 onwards.

Directors of Public Health can veto incinerators

It’s the Director of Public Health in the PCT where an incinerator, or other industrial source of PM2.5 pollution, is to be sited, who signs the IPPC application so that the Environment Agency authorises the application. Not many Directors of Public Health are likely to 'blow the whistle' on higher rates of illness and premature deaths due to PM2.5 emissions from a polluting industry for which they have failed to comment accurately at IPPC stage. The Directors of Public Health hold the illness and mortality data, and if they do not alert the Environment Agency to the harm to public health from industrial PM2.5 pollution, then nothing gets done.

The PCTs are asked to comment on the health effects of installations such as incinerators etc. and in the case of Slough, the September 2003 meeting was attended by doctors from the Health Protection Agency and also the Public Health Directors for both Slough and Hillingdon, Hillingdon PCT being immediately downwind of Grundon’s incinerator. All knew nothing about the subject, despite the BMA and GMC demands to learn the subject (ie Toxicology). [Click here to read Slough Express article, 8 April, 2004]

The Environment Agency do not regulate or measure PM2.5 emissions, despite the fact that only particles of less than 3 microns in diameter are small enough to enter the lungs.

Nobody at the PCTs or the Department of Health bothers to check the changes in illness or death rates and action groups, despite losing campaign after campaign, continue to use the same failing tactics and refuse to support the safest option, ie plasma gasification.

US save $193 bn while UK overspend on health

Incinerators, and other sources of industrial PM2.5 pollution, reduce health and life-span, thereby placing greater strain on NHS, DSS, Education Dept, Police and Prisons, as well as reducing inflow of funds into pension funds when people in their 40s and 50s are dying during peak earning times [remember the 4 fatalities of Great North Run, September 2005].

The US reduced industrial PM2.5 emissions and saved $193 billion in reduced hospital costs & fewer days off work [Click here to read Washington Post article, 27 September 2003], while the UK has done the exact opposite and now has a health service in crisis and the highest asthma rate in the world, soon to be followed by the highest cancer rate. USEPA are in the process of further tightening of PM2.5 emissions to save another $100 billion per annum in health costs. Meanwhile, the UK is laying off nurses and closing hospital beds due to cash shortfall caused by increasing sickness rates as a direct consequence of escalating PM2.5 emissions from incinerators and also from hazardous waste being co-incinerated with coal in cement works [such as by CEMEX at both Barrington and Rugby, by Castle Cement at Clitheroe, and by Lafarge at Westbury] and also some power stations, all totally unregulated regarding the vital PM2.5 emissions that are causing health damage.

Infant Mortality

The Children's charity BLISS publicise the wide variations in infant mortality rates by PCT for years 2002 - 2004 [Click here to see press release]. The ten PCTs with the highest infant mortality rates listed by BLISS were all affected by PM2.5 emissions from incinerators. The ten lowest were all free from high PM2.5 emissions.

North Bradford Primary Care Trust had an infant mortality rate of 19.4 per 1,000 live births in 2002 [19 infant deaths], whereas Eden Valley PCT had zero infant deaths and 565 live births in the same year and Scarborough, Whitby & Ryedale PCT had an infant mortality rate of 0.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002. Why was the 2002 infant mortality rate in North Bradford PCT 27.7 times greater than in Scarborough, Whitby & Ryedale PCT? Helsinki has an infant mortality rate of 3.3 per 1,000.

The worst three and best two London PCTs for infant mortality according to ONS in 2002-2004 were:





Highest Brent Teaching, 10.6 Southwark, 9.7 Newham, 8.7

2nd highest

City & Hackney, 8.7 Haringey Teaching, 9.2 Waltham Forest, 7.8

3rd highest

Lambeth, 7.5
Newham, 7.5
Greenwich Teaching, 7.5
Enfield, 8.1 Haringey Teaching, 7.5

2nd lowest

Wandsworth, 2.2 Havering, 2.5 Richmond & Twickenham, 1.9


Hounslow, 1.2 Westminster, 2.2
Kingston, 2.2
Kensington & Chelsea, 1.8

In 2002, the London Primary Care Trust with the highest rate of recorded deaths under 12 months, ie infant deaths plus stillbirths, was also Brent Teaching PCT where there were 4153 live births, 33 stillbirths and 44 infant deaths [18.7 recorded deaths per 1,000 total recorded births].

Greenwich Teaching PCT was also appallingly bad, with 3344 live births, 31 stillbirths and 25 infant deaths [16.6 recorded deaths per 1,000 total recorded births].

Infant mortality and childhood asthma are just two early parameters which can be readily measured and which give an accurate indicator of the likely health damage which cover some 30 conditions outlined by Dr Dick van Steenis in “Should regulators pass killing & maiming in Cambs?” [Click here to read report]. Campaigners against the proposed new plant by CEMEX at Barrington will be familiar with the report by Dr Dick van Steenis as a few of them met Dr van Steenis and would have noticed that CEMEX cancelled their proposed works about two weeks after Dr van Steenis’ report was published because of its accuracy. Cambridge residents should be concerned that Addenbrooke’s Hospital incinerator is one of the 34 authorised to burn radioactive waste. Any incinerator at Addenbrooke’s will cause elevated rates of illness in downwind areas and a comparison of asthma rates among primary school children in Cherry Hinton compared with upwind schools will show elevated asthma rates in that Cambridge suburb. 

Life expectancy con trick

Professor Tom Kirkwood, of Newcastle University’s Institute for Health & Ageing, thinks “life expectancy in the UK is increasing at a rate of five hours every day” [Shropshire Star, 10 June 2006].  Professor Kirkwood hasn’t realised that those living into their 90s and beyond have:

  1. had at least half their lives on a fully organic diet
  2. not had a wide range of vaccines pumped into their bodies
  3. avoided exposure to radioactivity for at least half their lives
  4. had much less exposure to industrial PM2.5 pollution

Living longer than one’s parents should be a happy prospect - if such longer lives are in good health. The premature deaths caused by increased PM2.5s are almost always preceded by a period of miserable ill-health.

Most people belive that we are all living longer, but the above will help explain how easy it is to be fooled. Dr Daniel Dorling's 'Death in Britain' examined mortality rates in different locations and trends in rates of infant mortality. The main factor in determining life expectancy is the quality of air breathed. If, like much of the UK, you live in an area of high industrial PM2.5 pollution, it is possible to mitigate some of the health damage by using HEPA filters in the home or workplace.

Prepared by Michael Ryan BSc, C Eng, MICE
14 June, 2006

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