Health and Environment

Tarragona Waste-to-Energy plant “does not produce additional health risks”

This 2012 study presents results from monitoring PCCD/F in soil, vegetation and air between 2009-2010. The study concludes that the Waste-to-Energy plant “does not produce additional health risks for the population living nearby.


Since 1996, a wide surveillance programme has been developed to get overall information on the impact of a municipal solid waste incinerator (MSWI) in Tarragona (Catalonia, Spain). The concentrations of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) have been periodically measured in soil and vegetation samples collected at locations in the incinerator surroundings. Furthermore, air PCDD/F levels have been also monitored by using active and passive sampling devices, generating a huge amount of information regarding the environmental status of the zone. In the last survey (2009–2010), mean PCDD/F levels in vegetation, soil and air were 0.06 ng I-TEQ kg−1, 0.58 ng I-TEQ kg−1 and 10.5 fg WHO-TEQ m−3, respectively. Both soil and herbage showed a notable reduction in the PCDD/F concentrations in comparison with the baseline study, with this decrease only being significant for soils. In contrast, PCDD/F values in air remained similar during the whole assessment period. Human exposure to PCDD/Fs was evaluated under different scenarios, and the associated non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic risks were assessed. The hazard quotient was below unity in all cases, while cancer risks were under 10−6, which is lower than the maximum recommended guidelines. The current results clearly show that the MSWI of Tarragona does not produce additional health risks for the population living nearby.

The full study can be found here.

Reference: Lolita Vilavert, Martí Nadal, Marta Schuhmacher, José L Domingo. Long-term monitoring of dioxins and furans near a municipal solid waste incinerator: human health risks. Waste Management and Research, Vol 30, Issue 9, 2012.