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Incinerators: Pollution

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 3 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps his Department is taking to monitor particles derived from the incineration of waste; (197833)

(2) whether his Department plans to extend the monitoring of particles produced by incineration of waste to include smaller particles.

Operators of incineration plants are required to install continuous emission monitors (CEMs) for specified key emissions including particulates. The CEMs undergo daily internal calibration checks and a mandatory independent quality assurance check in accordance with the relevant British Standard. Operators provide the Environment Agency with records of each measured daily average for particulates. These monitors record emissions of all particles (PM10) below 10 micrometres, which include those below 2.5 micrometres (PM25) as a sub-set.

Concentrations of particles in ambient air are monitored by the national Automatic Urban and Rural Network. PM25 is monitored in a small number of locations around the United Kingdom, although this number is increasing substantially. Data from these locations are publicly available from the UK Air Quality Archive website.

There is no credible evidence to suggest that modern incinerators—which must comply with stringent EU emission limits—cause health effects, beyond those which could be attributed to similarly sized “conventional” combustion plant. A survey carried out in 2005 for DEFRA, and peer-reviewed by the Royal Society, endorsed this view, with the Royal Society declaring that health risks associated with incineration were “small in relation to other known risks”. This view is also reflected in a supportive statement by the Health Protection Agency.