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Irish Examiner - 17-07-07 - Toxic ash must go to landfill somewhere

TED CROSBIE (Letters, July 14) is apparently unaware that incinerators produce highly toxic gaseous emissions, judging by his reference to “the clean smokestack of a modern, well-managed incinerator”.

These emissions contain dioxins, furans, oxides of sulphur, carbon and nitrogen, particulate matter, hydrogen chloride and heavy metals.

The World Health Organisation classifies dioxin as a “known human carcinogen” and states that “in terms of dioxin release into the environment, solid waste incinerators are the worst culprits due to incomplete combustion”.

Incineration advocates argue that air emissions are greatly reduced by chimney filtration equipment.

However, dioxins and furans are highly toxic at concentrations of nanograms and picograms and no filtration equipment can reduce emissions below these levels.

Even if filtration removed all the dioxins and furans, these poisons would not disappear but would simply remain in the ash.

The less toxic the air emissions, the more toxic the residual ash.

Mr Crosbie says that one of the “principal and very valuable qualities” of incinerators is “reduction of landfill waste”. This ignores the fact that the thousands of tonnes of highly toxic ash waste generated by incinerators must also go to landfill.

This ash is infinitely more noxious than the original waste, with the fly ash portion being particularly hazardous. This fly ash can only be disposed of in a specially licensed landfill site, but no such facility currently exists in Ireland.

Irish milk and milk produce currently have one of the lowest dioxin levels in Europe.

This competitive advantage will be lost if we go down the burning route. Dioxin crosses the placenta, gaining access to the unborn child and is passed on in the milk of lactating animals and in the breast milk of the human female.

Patrick McGinnity
Co Armagh


Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment
Bishop's Road, Cobh, Co. Cork
Tel - 021 481 5564      Email -
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