The government’s advisory Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals (COT) has concluded that it is “reassured” by the results of two surveys of chemical emissions from landfill sites dating back to 2002.1
The studies, commissioned by the Environment Agency, are described by COT as “the most detailed survey to date of chemicals to be found at the boundaries of landfill sites”.2,3
The studies were prompted by one EU and one UK study, both of which suggested the incidence of birth defects was higher in women living within a few kilometres of landfill sites (ENDS Reports 283, pp 14-15 and 319, pp 13-14).
The first study in 2002-03 concentrated on two modern landfill sites with methane gas collection systems described as ‘typical’ and taking household and similar waste. The study considered emissions to air measured at the site boundary, as it was reasoned that health effects via groundwater were unlikely, and any impacts were likely to come from atmospheric sources. Over 90 substances were detected, with most thought unlikely to give rise to impacts at the levels detected. Eight compounds, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), formaldehyde and styrene, were judged to need further investigation.
The second study, initiated in 2008-09 after COT asked for more data on levels, studied two different but similar landfill sites. It looked in detail at eight compounds including dimethyl sulphide, PAHs and vinyl chloride.
After lengthy consideration of the results, COT concluded: “We have found no causes for concern for the health of families with infants or for couples who live in the vicinity of landfill sites and who are considering having a baby.”