THE potential threat to public health from the planned incinerator at Javelin Park has been underestimated, according to a scientific expert.

Professor Vyvyan Howard, a toxico-pathologist at the University of Ulster, has said that public concern over the health impact from the proposed facility is 'understandable and justified'.

The medically qualified academic, who has researched the effects of pollutants on infants and unborn babies, was commissioned by protest group GlosVAIN to produce a report on Javelin Park.

In his report, Prof Howard says the threat posed specifically by PM2.5 particles has been underestimated.

GlosVAIN now intend to submit his report as evidence to Gloucestershire County Council's planning committee, which is likely to decide in the next few months whether or not to approve the plant.

GCC has repeatedly highlighted the Health Protection Agency's current position, which is that 'well-run and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health'.

A spokesman for Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) - the company hoping to build the plant - said: "Strict and highly regulated operating procedures and controls will ensure that the facility does not have an adverse impact on human health.

"Energy from waste facilities are regulated in England and Wales by the Environment Agency, and there are over 350 operating across Europe.

"The facility will incorporate bag filters which are the best available technology, and are effective at removing particles from the plant's emissions."

However, GlosVAIN spokesman Ian Richens, said: "Given the conclusions reached in Professor Howard's report that PM2.5 emissions appear to be considerably underestimated we should all be genuinely concerned.

"We all remember that in the 1970s asbestos was presented as posing no danger to our health  - let us not make the same mistake again."

A GCC spokesman said: "The issues of air quality and the proposed energy from waste facility at Javelin Park will be considered by both the planning authority and the Environment Agency as they will determine UBB's applications for planning permission and an environmental permit respectively."