Old waste incinerator technology will threaten health of HK people

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    Professor Tony Hedley is an expert on Hong Kong air pollution and health; recently retired from being Chair Professor of Community Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. Here's excerpt of an email he sent regarding Hong Kong government's plans to build a mega-incinerator on artificial island by Shek Kwu Chau:

    In 2006 we assumed that any incineration technology adopted in Hong Kong would be state-of-the-art and ensure that pollutant emissions were minimized to the greatest possible extent.


          This now appears not to be the case and is unacceptable from a public health viewpoint.  This is especially so, given that the EPD is apparently defaulting to depending on air movement to mitigate the impact of emissions locally and will only monitor mass concentrations four times a year.


    7.   From an overall project management point of view I also would want to see an EIA which takes account of the high volume of marine traffic which will be needed to transfer waste to Shek Wu Chau.  If present types of fuel oil are used to power these vessels they will add another layer to pollution of Hong Kong’s inshore waters.


    8.   At a personal level, from both an ecological and aesthetic point of view I would be implacably opposed to further despoiling of the seascapes in this part of the Hong Kong archipelago.  I cannot image how an option appraisal led to this choice.


    I've just seen news item on research linking cadmium (in diet) to breast cancer:

    In the new study, Julin and her colleagues followed nearly 56,000 Swedish women for more than 12 years. Those who had the highest level of exposure to cadmium from their diets had a 21% increased risk of breast cancer.


    Knowing cadmium is one of the toxins of concern with waste incinerators, just googled.

    Found a news item from last month:

    Maryland environmental officials are investigating following the discovery of elevated levels of cadmium from a municipal waste incinerator at Fort


    [so don't go thinking the incinerator planned for Hong Kong is really so much advanced over the four that were shut down in HK by early 1990s, over concerns re excessive dangerous pollutants]

    Also a research report on cadmium and incinerators:

    In the process of incineration, cadmium is volatilized as cadmium chloride to a considerable extent. In a series of in situ measurements it has been demonstrated that 99% of this cadmium condenses on dust particles and can be removed together with fly ash. The cadmium concentration in clean flue gas dusts amounts to about 2000 μg g−1. Therefore dust emission values should not be higher than 20–30 mg dust Nm−3. The ultimate disposal of filter ash increasingly poses difficulties on account of the mobility of cadmium.



    S China Morning Post lai see column today:

    Spain and the 'c' word

    Those at the Environmental Protection Department that are brooding over Hong Kong's future policy waste management would do well to take a look at a study on the impact on towns close to incinerators and hazardous waste facilities in Spain.

    The EPD is supposed to be undertaking a reappraisal of its waste disposal arrangements since the shelving of the proposed Shek Kwu Chau incinerator project. However, the project has not been axed and land appraisal work is continuing at the location.

    The Spanish study published in the October edition of Environment International wanted to assess the risk of dying from cancer in towns close to incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste. In the case of incinerators the report found that "high statistically significant excess risks were detected in towns … near to incinerators".

    It said people were exposed to pollutants released directly to the air and from indirect exposure through water that passes toxins into the soil and aquifers. Proximity to incinerators leads to "excess risk for all cancers combined and for lung cancer, and in particular, marked increase in the risk of tumours of the pleura and gallbladder (men) and stomach (women)".

    There was also "excess risk of tumour of the ovary and brain" for women living close to incinerators. None of the information from this study or other related studies is mentioned in the environmental impact assessment study for Hong Kong's incinerator project.

    Meanwhile Macau is getting twitchy about the health impact of its incinerator. The Macau government has commissioned Chinese University to conduct a 10-year study into the health of residents in Ka Ho where people have been complaining of illness due to air pollution from ash from the incinerator.

    The Food and Health Bureau became alarmed last year when hundreds of residents, many of them students and teachers in nearby schools, complained of lung and respiratory problems after contractors were found to have broken safety regulations by allowing ash to disperse into the atmosphere.

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