HC Deb 10 July 2003 vol 408 cc923-4W
Mr. Baron

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress is being made in examining whether there is a link between gas emissions from landfill and hazardous waste sites and birth defects. [122786]

Mr. Morley

[holding answer 1 July 2003]: Following a 1998 European study (the first EUROHAZCON study—Dolk, H et al; www.lshtm.ac/eeu/research.hmtl) that reported a higher rate of non-chromosomal anomalies among people living near hazardous waste sites, the Government commissioned a programme of work on health effects of landfill sites including a much more extensive national study by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (Elliott, P et al; www.imperial.ac.uk/p396.htm). This was published in the summer of 2001.

The SAHSU study looked at the rates of all birth defects (chromosomal and non-chromosomal) and found only a slightly higher rate (1 per cent.) in populations living near landfill sites and a 7 per cent. higher rate near hazardous waste sites. The Government's expert advisory committee, the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, noted that this excess risk was small and could be accounted for by factors other than the landfill sites. The study has not shown, or, indeed, could show, a causal link between landfill sites and birth defects.

However, the Government recognised that, in the light of the findings of these various studies, more research was needed on the health impacts of landfill sites. As a result, Defra, the Environment Agency and the Department of Health have a considerable amount of research either planned or already under way. Among the projects planned is one related specifically to emissions from hazardous waste sites.

Also, the Government have commissioned a review of the environmental and health effects of all waste disposal, and management options. They aim to report on the findings of this review later in the year. The review will provide a rational side-by-side comparison of the impacts of different waste management options, which will inform Government policy, and assist local authorities and other relevant bodies in making waste management decisions.

Norman Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Municipal Waste Management Statistics 2001–02 will be published. [123816]

Mr. Morley

[holding answer 2 July 2003]: Summary results for the Municipal Waste Management Survey 2001–02 were published on 22 May 2003. The information can be found at the Defra website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics/wastats/bulletin/index.htm.

The bulletin with more detailed results is due to be published in August 2003, and will be placed in the Library of the House.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government has taken to improve waste management. [124201]

Mr. Morley

The Government have done a great deal to improve waste management. "Waste Strategy 2000: England and Wales"1 was published in May 2000. It describes the government's vision for managing waste and resources better, and sets out the changes needed to deliver more sustainable development.

Progress against the targets set out in the Waste Strategy can be found in this year's Departmental Report2. Most recently, the Government have published its response3 to the Strategy Unit report on waste, this sets out a package of strategic measures that will help to boost the minimisation, re-use and recycling of municipal waste, and move waste management up the waste hierarchy. 1Waste Strategy 2000: England and Wales' Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions, May 2000 http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/strategy/cm4693/index.htm 2Defra Department Report 2003' Defra, May 2003. http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/deprep/default.htm 3'Government response to Strategy Unit' report 'Waste not, Want not' Defra, May 2003 http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/review/index.htm