Incinerator health study’s 2015 publication reaffirmed

But preliminary findings have still not been submitted for peer review and publication unlikely before General Election

Public Health England today (February 2) reaffirmed that a study looking at the possible health impacts from waste incinerator emissions will be published in 2015, although preliminary results of the research have still to be submitted for peer review.

It was previously expected that a paper with preliminary results of the study would be prepared for submission to a peer-reviewed journal towards end of last year, but it now seems unlikely that final results will see the light of day before the forthcoming General Election.

Preliminary results of the PHE study have yet to be submitted for peer review

Preliminary results of the PHE study have yet to be submitted for peer review

Originally, results had been earmarked for publication in March 2014, but the study has faced several postponements due to “unanticipated complexity in gathering data” caused by having to enter emissions data into an electronic format manually before statistical analysis could begin.

A spokesman for Public Health England (PHE) was unable to provide a timescale for roughly when publication might be expected this year, although he said that the preliminary results would “ultimately lead to a fuller report in due course”.

PHE also continued to stress that its position remains that “well run and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health”.

The study involves examining areas of up to 15km around 22 incinerators across England, including Grundon’s Lakeside energy-from-waste facility, the SELCHP plant in Lewisham, the LondonWaste Edmonton incinerator and SITA UK’s Tees Valley plant in Billingham.

In addition, the Dundee Energy Recycling Ltd waste incinerator in Baldovie, Scotland, will also be included in the study through funding from Zero Waste Scotland.

King’s College London and Imperial College London are both being funded by PHE to carry out the research, which was first announced in January 2013. The aim of the study is to extend the evidence base on potential incinerator health impacts, such as low birth weight, still births and infant mortality.

In a statement issued last week, Dr Simon Bouffler, deputy director of PHE’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, said: “It was originally envisaged that preliminary results for this study would be available by March 2014 but because of the unanticipated complexity in gathering data this has been delayed. A paper with preliminary results is now expected to be published in 2015.

“It is import to stress that Public Health England’s position that well run and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health remains valid, and the study is being carried out to extend the evidence base and to provide further information to the public on this subject.”

Previous postponements to the publication of the study last year promoted anti-incineration campaign group Breathe Clean Air Group (BCAG) to suggest government was attempting to hide the health impact findings (see story).


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Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan
9 years ago

The Sunday Express was the first national paper to be aware of and also report a possible link between incinerator emissions and infant mortality on 29 April 2005 following the Enfield Advertiser’s 3-page report of 25 April 2007, with the headline “THE BABY KILLER?” splashed across a picture of the Edmonton incinerator on the front page.

Dr Tango and colleagues had already identified a link between incinerators and infant mortality in their study published in May 2004:

“CONCLUSION: Our study shows a peak-decline in risk with distance from the municipal solid waste incinerators for infant deaths and infant deaths with all congenital malformations combined.”
(J Epidemiol. 2004 May;14(3):83-93.)

The Sunday Express of 1 May 2011 was the first newspaper in the UK to report the now long overdue study following articles by Mark Metcalf in Big Issue in the North which shamed the Health Protection Agency into promising a study:

The HPA’s press release was issued on 24 January 2012:

Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan
9 years ago

The study is unlikely to be published as it’s been known for a century that poverty couldn’t possibly be a causal factor for infant mortality, therefore the “excuse” of deprivation or low socio-economic status can’t be cited to explain why infant death rates are higher when exposed to incinerator emissions.

Dr William Brend scrutinised the 1914 infant death rates for all parts of the British Isles which ranged from 38 per 1,000 live births in County Roscommon to 184 per 1,000 in Ashton-under-Lyne. HMSO published Dr Brend’s 33-page report in 1917, the same year that Constable published his “Health and the State”, the full text of which is online – thanks to UCLA.

Look at the start of the preface:

“A healthy population is the finest form of national
wealth, and in an industrialised country its possession
depends to a large extent upon the completeness of the
Public Health services and the success they achieve in
securing a sound environment.”

and this on page 87:

“The Effect of a Smoke- and Dust-polluted

We have now examined, with one exception, the main
factors which might be held to account for a high rate of
infant mortality, and we find that differences neither in
poverty, bad housing, insufficient feeding, defective sanita-
tion, disease, industrial occupation of women, nor mal-
nutrition of mothers can be regarded as adequate to
explain the excessive and widespread difference between
urban and rural rates of infant mortality. The factor
which remains to be examined is that of smoke and dust
in the atmosphere. Dirtiness of the air appears to be the
one constant accompaniment of a high infant mortality :
purity of the atmosphere is the one great advantage which
the agricultural labourer of Wiltshire, the Connaught
peasant, and the poverty-stricken crofter of the High-
lands enjoy over the resident in the town. In the opinion
of the writer, a smoky and dusty atmosphere as a cause
of infant mortality far transcends all other influences.”

Maureen Taylor
Maureen Taylor
9 years ago

It is essential that this paper be published now. This delay implies the authors are being manipulated by government it others. Several incinerators are planned and we need to know what we face. Peer review simply should not take this long!

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