News Release

Breathing easy: new study declares waste-to-energy plants a low health risk

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, MEE

Graphical abstract.


Graphical abstract.

view more 

Credit: Eco-Environment & Health

A recent study has highlighted the insignificant health hazards posed by the emissions from waste-to-energy (WtE) facilities in China's Bohai Rim. This investigation brings to light the negligible impact of WtE plant emissions on public health, grounded in sophisticated regression analysis techniques.

As China rapidly urbanizes, turning waste into energy has become a key way to handle growing trash volumes and reduce landfill use, while also creating power. Yet, concerns about the pollution from these plants and its health effects have led to debates. Making sure these plants use the best technology to control pollution is crucial for protecting air quality and health, emphasizing the need for ongoing improvements and careful health checks..

A new study (DOI: 10.1016/j.eehl.2024.01.009), published in Eco-Environment & Health on February 2024 has unveiled the minimal health risks associated with emissions from waste-to-energy (WtE) plants in the Bohai Rim, China. The research team from Tianjin University, offers new insights into the impact of WtE emissions on public health using advanced regression analysis.

The study embarked on an innovative path by integrating atmospheric modeling tools with health risk assessment methods to scrutinize the impact of emissions from 96 WtE facilities across the Bohai Rim region. Researchers employed the Weather Research and Forecasting model and the California Puff (CALPUFF) model to predict how pollutants disperse in the atmosphere, focusing on key contaminants such as dioxins, furans, and particulate matter. By comparing the concentration of these pollutants in the environment against health safety benchmarks, the team calculated Hazard Indices (HI) and Carcinogenic Risks (CR) to estimate potential health impacts on nearby populations. Remarkably, their findings revealed that the levels of these pollutants were below international safety thresholds, suggesting that the health risks associated with living near WtE plants are low.

• Inhalation health risks from the Bohai Rim's WtE plants were evaluated.
• Determinants of incineration health risks and their correlations were investigated using ridge regression method.
• Hazard indices (HI) in January and July were 4.07 × 10−3 and 1.82 × 10−3, respectively.
• Cancer risks (CR) in January and July were 4.72 × 10−7 and 2.13 × 10−7, respectively.
• Health risks from WtE plants can be reduced through MSW classification.

"The findings challenge the traditional apprehension regarding WtE emissions, highlighting the effectiveness of current pollution control technologies," says Wenchao Ma, lead researcher of the study. "This underscores the importance of technological advancement and stringent operational standards in mitigating health risks."

This research is innovative, blending environmental science with public health to offer comprehensive insights. It provides crucial, evidence-based guidance for policymakers, environmental agencies, and WtE operators, aimed at enhancing waste management strategies.





Original Source URL

Funding information

This work was supported by Natural Sciences Foundation of China (5216100172, 72261147460).

About Eco-Environment & Health

Eco-Environment & Health (EEH) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal designed for publications on the frontiers of the ecology, environment and health as well as their related disciplines. EEH focuses on the concept of "One Health" to promote green and sustainable development, dealing with the interactions among ecology, environment and health, and the underlying mechanisms and interventions. Our mission is to be one of the most important flagship journals in the field of environmental health.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.