Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Further incinerator study delay

Incinerator study delay 
Infant mortality rates higher near some sites 

From Big Issue in the North magazine of 13-19 July 

There has been a further delay to a major study on the impact of municipal waste incinerator emissions on infant mortality rates. 
Health Protection England, now Public Health England (PHE), first promised such a study in 2003 but it was not until 2011 that research began by a team from the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU) at Imperial College London. 
The study is examining 22 municipal waste incinerators (MWI), including the ones at Bolton, Grimsby and Kirklees districts, where infant mortality rates remain historically higher than regional and national averages. 
It was envisaged that preliminary results would be available in March 2014 but now Dr Simon Bouffler, of PHE’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, has said: “Because of the unanticipated complexity in gathering data this has been delayed. 
“SAHSU is aiming to submit the papers from their project to peer-reviewed journals at the end of 2015. It will then be up to the journals when the papers are published, but it is likely to be in early 2016.” 
According to Bouffler the delay is caused by some of the data emissions being unexpectedly held in paper format and difficulty in accessing all the health data because it is stored with different sources. 
In the period since the study started, construction has commenced on more MWIs. Infant mortality levels have also dropped to an all-time low, with 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013. Respiratory and cardiovascular disorders accounted for 44 per cent of the 2,686 infant deaths
in England and Wales. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that mortality rates were highest amongst groups in routine and manual occupations. 
PHE contends: “MWIs are not a significant risk to public health.” But a major study conducted in Japan in 2004, found a “decline in risk from distance from MWIs for infant deaths”. 
Air pollution 
Critics of MWIs believe that it would have been better if a study had been conducted here before incinerators were given the green light, especially as US studies have also shown that air pollution from industrial sources damage schoolchildren’s health and academic success. 
Michael Ryan of Shrewsbury began examining the health record of incinerators after he considered that the loss of two of his children could have been the result of having lived downwind of an incinerator. When he examined all of London’s wards he found that there were clusters of above average mortality rates around MWIs in Edmonton, Colnbrook, Kings College Hospital and Bermondsey. Ryan also found that death rates in affluent areas such as Chingford Ward Green in Waltham Forest near the Edmonton incinerator were above average. 
The incinerator in Bolton was first opened in 1971 and is sited in the Great Lever ward. That ward is among the six wards in Bolton’s 20 where infant mortality rates are highest, at above 8 deaths per 1,000 live births. Four of Bolton’s other wards with the highest infant mortality are among the seven bordering Great Lever. 
Ryan would like SAHSU to examine these publicly obtainable figures. “Infant mortality is not just about poverty, as the ONS contends,” he said. “It is also about air pollutants. Even as far back as 1914, Dr William A Brend, a lecturer in forensic evidence, found that whilst wages in agricultural areas were notoriously low the infant mortality rates there were below average.” 
Asked if Ryan’s work was being examined as part of its study, a PHE spokesperson said: “Modern and well managed municipal incinerators make only a very small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants. 
“PHE is not aware of any evidence that requires a change in our position statement.” 

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