Health study into Sheffield incinerator delayed

The Sheffield incinerator on Bernard Road.
The Sheffield incinerator on Bernard Road.
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Publication of a study examining whether emissions from Sheffield’s incinerator affect the health of people living within 10 miles of the site has been delayed.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed the Veolia facility in Bernard Road is among 22 incinerators being examined as part of Public Health England research.

Scientists are investigating whether there is a link between incinerator emissions and health outcomes such as low birth weights and infant deaths.

The position of the organisation is that well-run incinerators are not a ‘significant risk to public health’ and it is carrying out the study to extend its evidence base.

The study, which was approved in January 2012, was originally due to be completed by March this year but has been delayed by ‘unanticipated complexity in gathering data’. Problems have been caused due to information held in paper format needing to be entered manually on computers before analysis could begin.

It is examining areas of up to 15km, or nine-and-a-half miles, away from the incinerators and also investigating potential links with incinerator emissions and babies born with congenital anomalies, such as cleft palate and spina bifida.

The study is now expected to be published next year.

Work is being carried out by officials from Imperial College London and King’s College London.

Dr Simon Bouffler, deputy director of PHE’s centre for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards, said: “It is important 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.”

The Sheffield incinerator deals with 225,000 tonnes of household rubbish per year, providing enough electricity to power 19,000 homes.