§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether emissions from waste incinerators, such as dioxins and heavy metals, pose any threat to human health. [HL4457]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whiny)
Emission standards for waste incineration—including those for dioxins and heavy metals—are currently tight and will get even tighter with the proposed Waste Incineration Directive, due to be adopted very shortly. The Environment Agency currently sets a dioxins limit of no more than 1ng3m—i.e. no more than 1 part in a billion—whilst the proposed directive will tighten the limit 10-fold to 0.1ng/m3. But no emission from any source—e.g. road traffic, domestic appliances, industry, or waste management—will be completely risk-free. The Chief Medical Officer's expert advisory Committee on Carcinogenicity has considered two studies of effects in populations living around the older generation of incinerators—now closed or fully refitted to modern standards—and concluded that any potential risk of cancer from living near a municipal waste incinerator for periods in excess of 10 years was exceedingly low and probably not measurable by the most modern epidemiological techniques. Any consideration of the environmental effects of incineration needs to also take account of the effects of alternative courses of action.