Air Pollution Causes Cancer Garbage Incineration Ups Death Rate
Metro Vancouver is looking to locate a garbage burner away from the city. Will your town fall for the promises?
A new study published in this month’s Lancet Oncology confirms what many of us have suspected – dirty air causes lung cancer. Our lungs are the interface where oxygen passes into our bodies and carbon dioxide passes out. Other substances can move across the lungs’ membranes as well. Many things are suspended in the air besides oxygen and some of them can harm you.Lancet’s study specifically looked at particulate matter in nine European countries.
Particle sizes ranged from large – soot to the very tiny – less than 10 microns(less than 10/1000 of a metre).
We have many sources of particulate matter in our air. Wood, coal smoke, pollen, dirt, bacteria, viruses. Our bodies are very good at dealing with these unwanted bits. We usually simply breathe them out again or our immune cells destroy them. We cope less well with ultrafine particles. It makes good sense to keep the air we breathe as free from particulates as possible.
Over the past few decades our societies have recognized both the health and economic benefits of clean air. Steps have been taken to ensure that our motor vehicles are cleaner burning. In British Columbia the burning of wood waste in ‘beehive burners’ is a thing of the past. Many years ago, the local garbage dump used to set fire to garbage, leaving a stinky, thick smoke in the area. Pollution controls have been placed on many industries, limiting their emissions.
Which bring me back to burning garbage. Metro Vancouver is looking for a community willing to host a massive garbage burner. One of the greenest cities in the world proposes to deal with its garbage crisis by burning it. While we are years away from setting the waste alight in a pit, all garbage burners spew fine particulate matter out of their stacks. The size of the installation that Metro Vancouver is proposing would contribute over ten metric tonnes of particulates to the air shed every year. That’s without any expansion of the plant.
Fine particulate matter is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illness, such as lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease. Worldwide, it is estimated to cause about 9% of lung cancer deaths, 5% of cardiopulmonary deaths and about 1% of respiratory infection deaths. Particulate matter pollution is an environmental health problem that affects people worldwide, but middle-income countries disproportionately experience this burden. WHO
Disposing of garbage by changing it into tiny particles and releasing it into the air kills people.
Further reading: The Health Effects of Waste Incinerators