CALLS to scrap plans for a £500 million incinerator have been renewed after a national magazine reported US research claiming the facilities caused deaths and cancer.

An article in this month’s edition of the current affairs magazine Private Eye said research published in academic journals in the US had found a ‘strong association’ between incinerators and ‘overall mortality, cardiovascular deaths and lung cancer’.

Sue Oppenheimer, chairman of GlosVAIN (Gloucestershire Vale Against Incineration), said the article laid bare the threat posed by incinerators to the public.

She also accused Gloucestershire County Council, which is hoping to site a waste burner in Haresfield, of turning a blind eye to the dangers of emissions and said the authority was ‘playing with the public’s health’.

In response, GCC said that it followed advice issued by the Health Protection Agency, which says that incinerators are ‘not a significant risk’ to public safety.

The investigative piece printed in Private Eye said the dangers presented by incinerator emissions to human health were ‘undeniable’ however.

It also highlighted the contrasting approaches of the US and UK authorities to monitoring the levels of potentially hazardous PM2.5 particles emitted by incinerators.

According to the article, tough laws were passed in the US as far back as 1997 to ensure that levels of PM2.5 particles released into the atmosphere by incinerators are kept to a minimum.

But, the magazine claims similar precautions to protect public health in this country have not been taken.

Earlier this year Dr Van Steenis, an air pollution expert who has given evidence to a House of Commons select committee on air pollution, told the SNJ that tiny PM1 and PM2.5 particulates produced by incinerators are responsible for high numbers of premature infant and child deaths in the UK.

He also claimed the particles, which are small enough to be absorbed straight into the blood, caused birth defects, childhood cancers, respiratory illnesses and heartattacks.

The report in Private Eye also cited the findings of a House of Commons environmental audit committee which stated: "The costs and health impact of fine particle, PM2.5, air pollution is almost twice that of obesity and physical inactivity."

In 2009-2010 obesity was costing the health service £10.7 billion, while PM2.5 was estimated to cost around £20.2 billion, it said.

Speaking to the SNJ last week Dr Van Steenis said the financial burden placed on the health system by PM2.5 emissions made incineration a highly expensive form of waste disposal.

"Billions of pounds could be saved because so many people are getting ill," he said.

"In the US they have realised this and they have only built one incinerator in the last six years.

"In Los Angeles they have said they are not going to use incineration. They are going to use plasma gassification because it is cheaper and safer."

The Private Eye article concludes by saying it is ‘surely time to start following the stricter monitoring policies of the US’.

Mrs Oppenheimer said: "The US is usually pretty lax on environmental regulations so if even they feel strongly about PM2.5 particles then they must be convinced by the evidence of the dangers.

"It seems that GCC are turning a blind eye to the science around small particles. They seem to be playing with our health."

She added: "The article in Private Eye undoubtedly lays bare the threat to the public."

Councillor Stan Waddington, GCC's cabinet champion for waste, said: "The UK Health Protection Agency’s (HPA’s) position is very clear - modern well run and regulated municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk.

"The HPA is the national independent body set up by government in the UK to protect the public from threats to health and we will be guided by their advice."

Urbaser Balfour Beatty, GCC’s preferred bidder, is currently hoping to build a mass burn incinerator at Javelin Park near to the M5 motorway junction in Haresfield.

A consultation on the proposed development at Haresfield ended yesterday (Tuesday, April 17) but anyonec wishing to object to the facility can still do so by writing to GCC before Monday, May 21.