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#215 - Public Health Association Takes Stand Against Incineration Of Solid Waste, 08-Jan-1991

The American Public Health Association (APHA) has issued a policy
statement (No. 8911) on the incineration of municipal solid waste. APHA
is a nongovernmental professional society founded in 1872 to represent
all disciplines and specialties related to public health.

Here is the Association's original statement (except 18 footnotes,
which we have omitted):

"The American Public Health Association,

"Recognizing that the United States currently generates about 160
million tons of solid waste a year, that increasing amounts of waste
have been generated every year since 1960, and that this trend is
expected to continue reaching 193 million tons per year by the year
2000; and

"Recognizing also that one-third of the nation's landfills will be full
by 1993 and that current and expected regulatory requirements to
upgrade existing landfills will force many to close; and

"Recognizing the seriousness of the current garbage crisis and that the
withdrawal of federal support, guidance and grants to states and
municipalities since 1980 has led local communities to the dire
situation they face today with local landfills closing and no
alternatives in place; and

"Recognizing that in this crisis situation many communities are facing
enormous and increasing costs for the export of garbage to other towns
and states many miles away and that public officials are under great
pressure to respond quickly to the crisis without appropriate guidance;

"Noting that as a result many public officials are embracing garbage
incineration as a solution without recognizing that incineration is a
poor alternative to landfilling as a waste management option and
therefore has significant consequences in terms of environmental
pollution and public health; and

"Noting that there are 111 incinerators burning six million tons of
municipal garbage now and that there could be 300 facilities burning as
much as 25% of the nation's garbage by the mid-1990s; and

"Noting with this trend toward incineration that it is important to
address the public health consequences of this choice; and

"Noting that ash residues from incineration contain high levels of
heavy metals and dioxin, frequently failing hazardous waste testing,
and subsequently require landfilling; and

"Noting that inadequate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
enforcement under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) has
allowed ash handling to pose significant threats to air and water
quality and to human health, especially that of workers; and

"Noting that significant amounts of lead and other heavy metals and
dioxins emitted from the stacks of incinerators with either best
available control technology (BACT) or the lowest achievable emission
rate (LAER); and

"Noting the evidence of increased emissions of heavy metals into the
environment, their concentration in the food chain, and the danger to
public health; and

"Noting that dioxin uptake and concentration in agricultural products
may pose a more significant exposure than ambient air concentration,
and the failure to include these estimations in risk assessments for
incinerators; and

"Recognizing that many communities across the nation have been
identified as non-attainment areas for ozone pollution under the Clean
Air Act and that large amounts of nitrogen dioxides, which are ozone
precursors, are produced by garbage incinerators and that many of the
non-attainment communities are proposing to build garbage incinerators;

"Noting that the Association has previously addressed the production
and disposal of hazardous wastes, as well as the health risks of lead
exposure and hazardous air pollutants; and

"Noting that the EPA's Science Advisory Board has expressed concern
over the current lack of scientific knowledge concerning municipal
waste combustion and that risk assessment and health effects prediction
cannot be adequately conducted without this knowledge; and

"Recognizing the global problems of acid rain and global warming and
that combustion sources by their nature produce acid gases and what are
known as 'greenhouse gases' and that tough choices will be necessary to
address these problems; and

"Recognizing that 80-90 percent of solid waste could be recycled,
reduced, reused, or composted, therefore the incineration of garbage is
an unnecessary combustion source that should be eliminated early in any
rational program to address these global issues; and

"Recognizing the value of conserving natural resources and that
considerable quantities of precious resources are currently wasted in
several ways, first by being disposed of, secondly by taking up
valuable space in landfills, third by polluting our air and our water;

"Noting that the environmental benefits of recycling and reuse go far
beyond the mere management of solid waste, such as in substitution of
secondary materials for virgin resources in the manufacture of new
products which reduces energy and water use and produces less
pollution; and

"Noting also that two billion tons of topsoil are lost each year to
erosion and mismanagement and that 2030 percent of solid waste is
compostable material which after composting could be used to improve
agricultural land; and

"Noting that this Association has expressed concern for solid waste
management as an essential element of environmental health and
pollution control, in addition to the need for conservation of national
resources including energy; therefore

"1. Recommends a federal solid waste policy rooted in resource
conservation and pollution prevention;

"2. Supports sanctions within the Clean Air Act which would place a
construction ban on garbage incinerators within all non-attainment
areas where such incinerators would contribute to the non-attainment

"3. Supports an amendment to RCRA which promotes the use of the least
toxic alternative in product composition, and secondarily the
alternatives which are most reusable, most recyclable, most durable, or
most biodegradable as appropriate. In this context biodegradability
must address the issue of toxic residues remaining after degradation.
This amendment should promote the minimization of waste at all points
of transfer from raw material to consumer and [sic] product;

"4. Supports legislation which promotes the use of recycled materials
over virgin materials through fees, taxes or price supports and tax
credits, and provides incentives to businesses that engage in recycling
and encourages market development;

"5. Supports federal, state, and local procurement guidelines for
government contractors which enable product life and ability to be
repaired to be considered in procurement decisions;

"6. Supports research in problem areas of waste management such as
battery recycling, household hazardous waste collection and recycling
possibilities, and further research into waste composition to identify
problem items not yet addressed in waste reduction legislation;

"7. Recommends that the EPA assist local communities to develop and
implement intensive recycling and composting plans to handle 80% of the
waste stream through technical assistance, planning grants, and
incentives to successful programs.

"8. Supports the designation of incinerator ash residues as hazardous
unless comprehensive testing proves otherwise;

"9. Supports extensive research and monitoring of existing facilities
to establish a database and develop stringent regulatory standards; and

"10. Asks the EPA and other research bodies to identify research and to
develop interim guidance for existing incineration which is protective
of public health."

Get: "Resource and Solid Waste Management," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC
HEALTH Vol. 80 (February, 1990), pgs. 230-231.

--Peter Montague


Descriptor terms: american public health association; landfilling;
incineration; msw; ash; epa; rcra; heavy metals; health effects;