John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé

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Recent epidemiological data about the health effects of waste treatment plants Volume 7, issue 1, Janvier-Février 2008

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Observatoire régional de santé d’Ile-de-France, 21-23, rue Miollis, 75015 Paris

Waste management facilities generate atmospheric emissions and liquid effluent, which may be hazardous to human health. People living near such plants may be exposed to these releases and thus worry about their possible health effects. To guide the implementation of waste management policies, decision-makers need information about their potential effects on public health. Despite the many studies conducted on this subject, the data remain heterogeneous. Incineration is the waste treatment method for which the most documentation is available. The adverse effects, such as cancers, are linked to atmospheric emissions and affect mainly local residents. The risk level is highest for old, outdated incinerators. Modern incinerators appear to meet the latest emission standards, especially for dioxins. Emissions and effluent from landfills are likely to contain microorganisms and chemical substances. The risk of adverse birth outcomes and cancers in populations living near landfill sites has been reported in France and abroad. Because the operation of these sites differs so greatly, generalizations are impossible. Given the recent reinforcement of regulatory standards, these health hazards are now considered negligible. The potential health hazards related to biological waste treatment and selective waste collection are documented mainly for occupational exposure. Effects including respiratory and digestive signs have been reported in workers exposed to particulate matter and bioaerosols. Similar problems may occur in nearby residents, although they have not yet been documented.