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Hazardous waste landfill sites and congenital anomalies
  1. R M Harrison
  1. Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management, University of Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Prof. R M Harrison, Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; r.m.harrison.ipe{at}bham.ac.uk

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The EUROHAZCON collaborative group reported a further stage of their research on connections between congenital anomalies and hazardous waste landfill sites in the November 2002 issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.1 An expert panel scoring method has been used to estimate the hazard potential of EUROHAZCON landfill sites and to investigate whether sites classified as posing a greater potential hazard are those with a greater risk of congenital anomaly among nearby, relative to distant residents.

Municipal and hazardous wastes are an inevitable byproduct of developed societies. While the public are content to generate domestic waste in ever larger quantities, they appear very reluctant to face up to the realities of disposal, especially when proposals relate to their own neighbourhood. The greatest adverse reactions seem to centre on incineration, which is nowadays subject to very strict engineering and operational controls such that the health consequences of an incinerator for local populations should be extremely small. In opposing incinerators, environmental pressure groups generally stress the desirability of greater recycling and there are few that would deny that more could be done on this front. However, there is a limit to which components of waste can usefully be recycled, and not all recycled materials are of the same quality as those produced from virgin feedstocks.2 There are also very real concerns over health impacts of recycling plants for workers and local residents, and over the composting plants which can deal with the putrescible materials within domestic waste. The last resort disposal …

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