Environmental Health News

What's Working

  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
  • Hope Meadows is a planned inter-generational community containing foster and adoptive parents, children, and senior citizens
  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#35 - Part 2: Do Garbage Incinerators Produce Air Pollution Harmful To Humans, 23-Jul-1987

Does burning municipal garbage produce air pollution that might harm
humans?[1] This is part 2 of our series to answer that question.

We know that "mass burn" or "trash to steam" plants produce dioxin.
Part of the dioxin goes up the stack and becomes air pollution and the
remainder of the dioxin stays with the ash. If the ash is thrown into a
landfill, the dioxin goes with it. If rain enters the landfill and
soaks the ash, the water that runs off (or sinks through the bottom of)
the landfill will contain small amounts of dioxin. In this way, dioxins
may be spread through the local environment.

But what other chemicals will be produced by burning garbage? What
other chemicals will be emitted from the stack, or will stay with the
ash, ready to enter the local environment later on? The U.S. Department
of Energy (DOE) conducted research on this question in 1979. At their
Ames, Iowa, laboratory, two DOE researchers (G.A. Junk and C. S. Ford)
looked through a large body of scientific literature, seeking studies
that had measured one or more organic chemicals in the ash or in the
flue gases of plants burning municipal garbage. Organic chemicals are
chemicals that contain carbon atoms. (Inorganic chemicals do not
contain carbon atoms.) The resulting list of chemicals was published in
1979 in a scientific journal called CHEMOSPHERE, Vol. 9, pgs. 187-230.
The Junk-Ford study identified 217 individual organic chemicals that
have been identified by one researcher or another studying the ash or
flue gases from mass burn plants. This does not mean that ONLY 217
organic chemicals are produced by mass burn plants; it means AT LEAST
217 are produced. Studies since 1979 has revealed others, but here
we're going to focus on just the original Junk-Ford list of 217.

We wanted to know if any of these 217 chemicals had been studied for
their effects on humans or laboratory animals. So we turned to Irving
Sax's standard reference book, DANGEROUS PROPERTIES OF INDUSTRIAL
MATERIALS and we looked up the 217 chemicals. If we didn't find a
particular chemical in Sax, we then looked it up in the National
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health book, REGISTRY OF TOXIC
EFFECTS OF CHEMICAL SUBSTANCES, which we call RTECS for short.

Inside parentheses, following the name of each chemical, we list what
we found in Sax or RTECS. Sax assigns toxicity ratings: low, moderate
and high. We have reported those ratings. If a chemical is known to
cause cancer in humans or animals, we report that. If a chemical causes
neoplasms, we report that; neoplasms are tumors that don't metastasize
(spread) the way cancer tumors spread. The word "Sax" or the word
"RTECS" by itself inside parenthese indicates that that chemical is
listed by that source but the chemical is not noted as a particular
hazard. (This is not to say we are volunteering to breathe it; it just
means that Sax or RTECS don't list it as a special hazard.) If a
chemical has the words "no data" inside parentheses, it means either
the chemical wasn't listed in Sax or RTECS, or the listing said that
nothing was known about the hazards of that chemical. An incinerator
that puts chemicals into the human environment when there is "no data"
on the effects of those chemicals, is conducting an (uncontrolled)
experiment on the affected humans.

--Peter Montague

=====

Organic Chemicals in Garbage Incinerator Flue Gas or Ash:

acenaphthene (animal neoplasms: Sax). acenaphthylene (animal cancer:
RTECS). acetaldehyde (toxicity moderate: Sax). acetic acid (toxicity
moderate: Sax). acetone (toxicity moderate: Sax). acetonitrile (Sax).
acrylonitrile (human cancer: Sax). aldrin (animal cancer: Sax). aniline
(animal cancer: Sax). anthanthrene (animal neoplasms: RTECS).
anthracene (human cancer: Sax). anthracenonitrile (No data).
anthraquinone (animal neoplasms: Sax). benz(c)phenanthrene (animal
cancer: Sax). benzene (human cancer: Sax). benzilbutylphthalate (No
data).

benzo(a)anthracene (animal cancer: RTECS). benzo(a)pyrene (animal
cancer and a mutagen: Sax). benzo(b)fluoranthene (animal cancer: Sax).
benzo(b)fluorene (No data). benzo(b)phenanthrene (animal cancer:
RTECS). benzo(c,d)pyrenone (No data). benzo(def)dibenzothiophene (No
data). benzo(e)pyrene (animal cancer suspected: RTECS). benzo(ghi)
fluouranthene (No data). benzo(ghi)perylene (animal cancer: Sax). benzo
(k)fluoranthene (animal cancer: Sax). benzo(l)fluoranthene (No data).
benzofluoranthene (No data). benzofuran (RTECS). benzotetrahydrofuran
(No data). benzylbenzoate (toxicity moderate: Sax).

benzylchloride (toxicity high: Sax). biphenyl (animal cancer: Sax).
butadiene (RTECS). 1,3-butadiyne (Sax). butane (toxicity moderate:
Sax). 1-buten-3-yne (RTECS). 3-butene (No data). 1-butene (Sax).
carbazole (Sax). carbon disulfide (Sax). cis-chlordane (RTECS).
chlorinated terphenyls (No data). chloroacetophenone (toxicity high,
and a military poison: Sax). p-chlorobenzylchloride (No data).
chlorobiphenyl (animal cancer: Sax). chloronaphthalene (toxicity
moderate: Sax).

chrysene (animal cancer: Sax). coronene (animal cancer: Sax). cresols
(Sax). cumene (RTECS). cyclobutane (Sax). cyclohexane (toxicity
moderate: Sax). cyclopentadiene (toxicity moderate: Sax). cyclopentane
(toxicity moderate: Sax). cyclopentene (toxicity moderate: Sax).
cyclopenteno(c,d)pyrene (No data). cyclopropane (toxicity moderate:
Sax). p,p'-DDE (animal cancer: RTECS). o,p'-DDT (No data).
decachlorobiphenyl (No data). dibenz(a,h)anthracene (animal cancer:
Sax). dibenzo(a,e)pyrene (animal cancer: Sax).

dibenzofluoranthene (No data). dibenzoheptafulvene (No data). 1,1-
dichloro-3-phenylpropane (No data). dichlorobenzene (RTECS).
dichlorodibenzofuran (No data). dichlorophenol (RTECS).
dicyclohexyladipate (No data). dieldrin (animal cancer: Sax).
diethylisophthalate (No data). diethylterephthalate (No data). 1,1-
difluoroethylene (Sax). difluoromethane (No data). diisobutylphthalate
(animal birth defects: Sax). 9,10-dimethylanthracene (animal cancer:
Sax). 7,12-dimethylbenzo(a)anthracene (animal cancer, birth defects:
Sax).

dimethylcyclopentane (No data). dimethylcyclopentene (No data).
dimethyldisulfide (Sax). dimethylindole (No data). 1,5-
dimethylnaphthalene (No data). 2,3-dimethylnaphthalene (No data). 2,7-
dimethylnaphthalene (No data). 1,6-dimethylnaphthalene (RTECS).
dimethylpiperidene (No data). dimethylpyridene (No data).
dimethyltetrahydrofuran (No data). dioctylphthalate (animal birth
defects: Sax). diphenylacetylene (Sax). diphenylbiphenyl (No data).
diphenylmethane (RTECS). divinylbenzene (Sax).

ethane (Sax). ethylbenzene (Sax). ethylcyclopentane (RTECS). 1-
ethylcyclopentene (No data). 3-ethylcyclopentene (No data). ethylene
(toxicity moderate: Sax). ethylnaphthalene (No data). ethyne (Sax).
fluoranthene (RTECS). fluorene (No data). formaldehyde (animal cancer:
Sax). henene (Sax). heptachlorocyclohexane (No data).
heptachlorodibenzofuran (No data). heptane (toxicity moderate: Sax).
hexachlorobenzene (animal birth defects: Sax).

hexachlorobiphenyl (No data). hexachlorobutadiene (toxicity high: Sax).
hexachlorocyclohexane (toxicity high: Sax). hexachlorocyclopentadiene
(toxicity high: Sax). hexachlorodibenzofuran (No data).
hexachloroethane (toxicity high: Sax). hexachloronaphthalene (toxicity
high: Sax). hexachloropropane (No data). hexafluoro-1-propene (No
data). hexafluoroethane (No data). hexane (Sax). indene (toxicity
moderate: Sax). indeno(1,2,3-cd)fluoranthene (No data). indeno(1,2,3-cd)
pyrene (animal cancer: RTECS). indoline (RTECS). isobutane (Sax).

isodrin (toxicity high: Sax). isopentane (Sax). methane (Sax). methanol
(Sax). 3-methyl-1-butene (No data). 3-methyl-2-butene (No data). 2-
methyl-2-butene (toxicity moderate: Sax). methylanthracene (animal
neoplasms: Sax). methylbenzoanthracene (No data).
methylbenzophenanthrene (No data). methylchloride (Sax). methylchrysene
(No data). methylcyclohexane (toxicity moderate: Sax).
methylcyclohexene (RTECS). methylcyclopentane (RTECS).
methylcyclopentene (No data).

methylenechloride (animal cancer: Sax). methylindole (No data).
methylmercaptan (Sax). methylnaphthacene (No data). 1-methylnaphthalene
(RTECS). 2-methylnaphthalene (RTECS). methylpentane (RTECS).
methylphenanthrene (No data). methylpyrene (No data).
methyltetrahydronaphthalene (No data). monochlorobenzene (toxicity
moderate: Sax). monochlorodibenzofuran (No data). naphthalene (toxicity
moderate: Sax). naphthonitrile (No data). nonodecane (No data).
octachlorodibenzofuran (No data).

octachlorostyrene (No data). octane (Sax). pentachlorobenzene (animal
birth defects: Sax). pentachlorobiphenyl (No data).
pentachlorodibenzofuran (No data). pentachloroethane (toxicity high:
Sax). pentachloropropane (No data). pentachloropropene (No data).
pentadecane (No data). pentadiene (No data). pentane (RTECS). 2-penten-
4-yne (No data). 2-pentene (No data). pentyne (No data). perfluoro-1-
butene (No data). perfluoro-2-butene (Sax).

perylene (animal neoplasms and cancer: Sax). phenanthrene (toxicity
moderate: Sax). phenol (animal cancer: Sax). phenylisocyanurate (No
data). polychlorinated biphenyls (animal cancer: Sax). propane (Sax).
propanol (animal cancer: Sax). propionaldehyde (toxicity moderate:
Sax). propylcyclohexane (No data). propylene (Sax). pyrene (animal
cancer: Sax). pyrenonitrile (No data). pyridine (RTECS). pyrrole
(toxicity probably moderate: Sax). pyrrolidone (toxicity high: Sax).
rubicene (No data).

styrene (Sax). tetracenonitrile (No data). tetrachlorobenzene (No
data). tetrachlorobiphenyl (No data). tetrachlorodibenzofuran (No
data). tetrachlorophenol (No data). tetrachloropropane (No data).
tetradecane (). toluene (Sax). p-toluidine (animal cancer: Sax).
tolunitrile (No data). trichlorobenzene (No data).
trichlorodibenzofuran (No data). trichlorophenol (No data). tridecane
(No data). trifluoromethane (Sax).

1,2,3-triphenylbenzene (No data). triphenylene (No data). triptycene
(No data). vinylchloride (toxicity high, and human cancer: Sax).
xanthone (No data). o,m,p-xylenes (Sax).

Descriptor terms: incineration; air pollution; toxicity;