Living near landfills leads to health problems, or even death

By Drum Digital
27 May 2016

People living near a landfill are at higher risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, research has found.

Experts explored the issue in Italy, studying 242,409 individuals based within 3.1 miles (5 kilometres) of nine different landfills in the country's Lazio region. Scientists tested the levels of hydrogen sulphide, a flammable, colourless gas with a rotten egg odour produced in the presence of decomposition.

The average exposure of this gas per annum in 6.3 nanograms per cubic metres, whereas areas that were close to large landfills saw levels averaging at 45ng/m3.

Checking in on participants for at least five years, at the end of the follow-up period 18,609 people died. It was found that those with the highest exposure levels were 34 per cent more likely to die from lung cancer than people who were further away from the sites. People in closer proximity were also 30 per cent more likely to suffer fatal respiratory diseases, and five per cent more likely to receive treatment for all the diseases, including asthma.

More worryingly was the impact it has on children, as they have an 11 per cent increased risk of being admitted to hospital for respiratory problems, and were 13 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with asthma.

Francesca Mataloni, of the Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, Rome, noted: "People who live close to municipal solid waste landfills could be exposed to air pollutants emitted by the plants.

“We found associations between H2S exposure from landfills and mortality from lung cancer as well as mortality and morbidity for respiratory diseases. The excess of lung cancer is a relatively new finding."

However not all research into this area has produced similar results, as an ecological study in Wales comparing death rates, hospital admissions and reproductive health of people near landfills didn't find any differences between people who didn't.

Findings were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. © Cover Media

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