The family doctor and incinerators

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Once upon a time who else did we trust but the good old family doctor? The one who told you to “say aaaahhhh” and then removed your tonsils. Every time he hit you on the shoulder you had to say “thirty three”. On one occasion I said “thirty four” and he sent me away and asked my mum for an explanation.
The family doctors have expressed their opinion about incinerators. Their report is below. It is dedicated to all those who live or who will live near an incinerator.

“The latest generation of incinerators, with their high temperatures in the ovens greatly contribute to the emission into the environment of very fine dust that constitutes a health risk that is much more serious than the well known PM10. The incineration of refuse, among all the techniques for getting rid of waste, is the most damaging for the environment and for human health.
The incinerators produce ash (whose weight is a third of the weight of the refuse and must be got rid of in special disposal units) and they send into the air millions of cubic metres a day of polluting fumes. These contain fairly big particles (PM10) and fine ones (PM2.5) made up of nanoparticles of heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), benzene, and dioxin, that are extremely dangerous and persistent and can accumulate in living organisms.
These “nanoparticles” go straight through the filters of the incinerators and are not even noticed by current incinerator emission monitoring systems and they are not mentioned in the legal limits that installations need to ad here to.

Furthermore when considering the carcinogenic emissions that have been identified for some time (dioxins, furans, heavy metals) the incinerators emit hundreds of substances whose impact on human health is unknown, just as the effect of combinations of various polluting products has not been investigated.
Every combustion process produces particles.

If it’s true that nature is a producer of these particles (volcanoes) it is also true that the particles that have a natural origin make up a minor fraction of the total that are in the atmosphere today.

Man is the great producer of particles, especially those that are the finest. The higher the temperature at which a combustion process takes place, the smaller is the dimension of the particles that are produced. They are inorganic particles, that are non-biodegradable and non biocompatible.

Combustion transforms even refuse that is innocuous, like packaging and waste food, into products that are toxic and dangerous in the form of gaseous emissions, fine particles, volatile ash and residue that requires costly systems to neutralise and store them.

For this reason, it is appropriate that there are incentives for a policy of production, differentiated waste collection, recycling and the recovery of refuse. The micro- and nano-particles produced in any way, once they get into the organism start off a whole series of reactions that can turn into illnesses.

The most common pathologies are neoplastic, but there are also foetal malformations, allergic inflammatory and even neurological illnesses.
Furthermore, the incineration of refuse is the most costly system for getting rid of refuse and all the Italians, unknown to them, pay generous incentives to support it.

Seven percent of the electricity bill that is paid is in fact put aside and used to give subsidies even to the construction of incinerators. It’s enough to take an electricity bill and read, on the back, in the part discussing various items and costs: “Component A3 – construction of installations for renewable sources”. The sum that is shown at the side is handed to the managers of refuse incinerators because Italian law puts on an equal footing the various non fossil renewable energy sources like wind and sun with energy obtained from incineration of every type of urban and industrial waste.

As well as this slice of incentives taken from the pockets of users, the managers of incinerators receive other money from the State. Thus Italy is the only European State that finances the incineration of refuse. All the other member Sates (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany) impose a tax on those who manage incinerators for each ton of refuse burned thus disincentivising the incineration of refuse.”

From Notiziario FIMMG - Italian Family Doctors' Federation, May 2006

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 02:23 PM in | Comments (3) | Comments in Italian (translated) Post a comment | Sign up | Send to a friend | | GrilloNews | listen_it_it.gifListen | TrackBack (0) |
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Posted by: manuela bellandi | June 26, 2006 12:06 PM


I agree with the previous commented post. It is not the poor dust particle's fault that proper filtering is not in place in the incinerators and yes, I agree that in its present form such emitted dust could be dangerous to humans. I'm not a doctor, though, however, I'm an astrophysicist who's main career activity focuses on cosmic dust. Volcanoes are not the only natural producers of dust, by the way, comets, asteroids and the rest of the universe contribute, as well. See the 'Cosmic dust' (search) article at Wikipedia to learn about the larger context of natural dust sources.

Posted by: Amara Graps | June 25, 2006 08:32 PM


Properly designed and maintained chimneys with scrubbers can avoid the emissions you decry. Formerly terribly polluted steel cities have benefited for decades from this. Italy needs non-petroleum fuel, and trash is as good as coal if the emissions are controlled.
I think I am the only one in my Italian neighborhood who does the raccolta differnziata, but there's still a lot of crap left for binning. I wish, how I wish, that Italy werte less in love with plastic!

Posted by: Judith Greenwood | June 25, 2006 05:38 PM


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