Wherever a person lives and works, he or she produces waste: directly from households, indirectly from various sectors like agriculture, oil and gas, food production, and mining) and even from medical institutions (which in principle should not harm but protect our health).
In the process of its development, mankind has created a whole system of waste management, which in any case includes the collection and transportation of waste and its disposal. And the question of disposal has been solved with varying degrees of efficiency. Many disposal methods have been developed, including reuse, composting of bio-organics, but the main (60 to 95%) methods are incineration and burial at landfills. Moreover, in this case, illegal burial and illegal burning are a separate problem, constituting in different countries from 10 to 60% of the total mass of waste disposal.
In the process of such disposal, air, soil and water are contaminated, and through them - human food. Further, through food intake, skin contact and respiration, harmful substances enter the body.
The topic of the negative impact of solid waste landfills on the health of residents of the region has been confirmed in a number of scientific studies conducted in different countries of the world.
In the fall of 2015, a conference of 24 experts of the World Health Organization from 11 countries was held in Bonn (Germany), which, upon completion of it, published the report "Waste and human health: Evidence and needs".
The authors of the report cite data obtained by researchers from different countries. It is mainly a long-term effect of the effects of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and other harmful substances emitted by landfill sites on the health of adults in neighboring areas and their offspring.
A number of studies (for example, this work of British scientists) indicate an increased risk of giving birth to babies with organic defects in women living within a radius of 2 km from landfills with hazardous waste. These are defects in the structure of the neural tube and abdominal wall, gastroschisis, fetal hernia, low and very low birth weight.
As for women living near household waste dumps, for them, these risks, based on the results of a British study, are not so obvious, but WHO experts believe that this relationship cannot be completely ruled out, especially since this meta-analysis of Italian scientists characterizes these risks are very real.
In addition, the authors of the report report an increased risk of cancer (pancreas, larynx, liver, kidneys), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, noted in a number of studies, stipulating, however, that the data obtained need additional verification.
Also, living near the training ground can contribute to respiratory diseases, which is not at all surprising in terms of common sense.
Polygons emit hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide. Hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen dioxide are strong irritants, their action can lead to inflammatory processes and bronchospasm. Hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride irritate the mucous membranes of the nose and upper respiratory tract, cause coughing and shortness of breath.
In addition, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recorded on the evaporation ranges of metals and other carcinogenic substances. These are cadmium, lead, formaldehyde, styrene.
Volatile organic compounds such as arsine (convertible into arsenic in the human body) and stibine are also extremely toxic, but they are usually decomposition products of industrial rather than household waste.
Harmful substances from landfills fall not only into the air, but also into drinking water, if its source is local. In this case, residents of the area receive additional toxic load.
The topic of the health of people living near landfill sites is very relevant for Italian scientists. In 2015–2019, they studied risks in areas where landfills were poorly controlled by government. In the Campaign, for example, they found a statistically significant increase in mortality compared to the population of territories far from landfills, as well as higher risks of liver cancer (in both sexes), stomach and lung (in men).
In addition, among birth defects in infants in these populations, the average level of anomalies of the urogenital tract was significantly higher.
The scientific work of experts from the epidemiological department of the Regional Health Administration of the Lazio Region and the Regional Environmental Protection Agency of the same region (Rome, Italy) stands out for its clean design.
Scientists included 242,409 people living in a radius of 5 km from nine different polygons in the study. If the average annual level of hydrogen sulfide in the air in the Lazio region was 6.3 ng/m³, then in these areas it was 32.7 - 45.8 ng/m³.
The study participants settled in this territory at different times, from January 1, 1996 until the end of 2008. Scientists tracked their health until December 31, 2012.
When analyzing the data, the researchers made corrections for indicators such as gender, age, social and material status, as well as the distance from the participants' housing to highways and industrial facilities, so they eliminated the distortion of results under the influence of these factors.
It is important to note one more difference of this work from previous ones. In most studies, the measure of exposure to harmful substances was determined by the geographic location of the area in relation to the landfill. The authors of this work measured levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air, not relying solely on the factor of proximity to the landfill.
The fact is that pollutants do not spread evenly: their concentration at a specific geographical point depends on the prevailing winds and terrain, as well as on the amount of waste in a particular landfill (there were nine of them in the study).
Scientists have observed a definite correlation between an increase in the level of hydrogen sulfide in the air and mortality from lung cancer and respiratory diseases, as well as with the frequency of hospitalizations due to respiratory diseases, especially in acute respiratory infections in children under 14 years of age.
The authors of the work consider the connection between living near the landfill and respiratory diseases to be proven (since it was demonstrated repeatedly in earlier studies), and the presence of a causal relationship between exposure to toxic emissions and lung cancer, in their opinion, needs further confirmation.
So they write in the conclusion of the study in full accordance with the criteria of evidence in medical science, which for the final conclusion require repeated reproduction of the results by different scientists.
But even if the conclusion about lung cancer is considered inconclusive, it's all the same clear: landfill sites are a very serious risk factor for people living in close proximity, for adults and children, for pregnant women.
Considering the problem in a regional context, it should be noted that the presence of waste landfills has a negative impact not only on the permanent residents of the region, but also on tourists who come to the region, temporary workers. At the same time, people who are at risk of health are becoming the most vulnerable, namely: people over 55 years of age, the least wealthy, who depend on local sources of food and water and cannot purchase environmentally friendly products specially brought from other regions and maintain your health by taking prophylactic drugs.
Our technology can significantly reduce the impact of waste management on the health of the population of the region, primarily due to the fact that in our case the waste does not go to the landfill, thereby preventing all the negative effects of the landfill.
In the process of gasification using UNIVASTUM technology, there is no pollution of water and soil, the emission of methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxides (SOx), ammonia (NH3), and volatile organic compounds is completely eliminated.
Unlike waste disposal methods by burning (legal or illegal), the formation of dioxins and furans is excluded during gasification, the emission parameters of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are significantly reduced (to the level of the most stringent European requirements).
A more detailed analysis of the impact of the waste gasification project with electricity generation in Puebla on greenhouse gas emissions is given in a separate document.