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Toxins from waste incineration may cause cancer, experts warn

Two anti-incinerator activists: Ella Haley who is a Professor in Environmental Studies at Athabasca University and Liz Benneian who is Manager of Partnership Programs for Oakvillegreen Conservation Association cleared their agendas last Friday to spend the day at Six Nations in an attempt to inform the community of the hazards of waste incinerators like the one on at the Six Nations Landfill Site. (Photo by Jen Mt. Pleasant)

A small group of concerned community members attended the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) last Friday afternoon to raise concerns about the Kearns disintegrator at the landfill site. With them, were two activists from off the territory who are knowledgeable about the harmful effects of waste incineration. One activist has been successful in stopping other municipalities in southern Ontario from having these machines. 

Ella Haley is a Professor at Athabasca University and teaches Environmental Studies. Liz Benneian is the Manager of Partnership Programs for Oakvillegreen Conservation Association. Both ladies had recently heard about the proposed disintegrator that SNEC is planning on purchasing from John Kearns of Kearns International which is based out of Nova Scotia. Haley and Benneian had grave concerns regarding health effects on humans and environmental pollution and degradation.

Two anti-incinerator activists: Ella Haley who is a Professor in Environmental Studies at Athabasca University and Liz Benneian who is Manager of Partnership Programs for Oakvillegreen Conservation Association cleared their agendas last Friday to spend the day at Six Nations in an attempt to inform the community of the hazards of waste incinerators like the one on at the Six Nations Landfill Site. (Photo by Jen Mt. Pleasant)

Two anti-incinerator activists: Ella Haley who is a Professor in Environmental Studies at Athabasca University and Liz Benneian who is Manager of Partnership Programs for Oakvillegreen Conservation Association cleared their agendas last Friday to spend the day at Six Nations in an attempt to inform the community of the hazards of waste incinerators like the one on at the Six Nations Landfill Site. (Photo by Jen Mt. Pleasant)

Haley stated that she, along with Benneian attended SNEC last Friday to try and convince them that any type of incineration is detrimental to the community and to the environment. “I told her (Elected Chief Ava Hill) that I teach about the environment and health and I just mentioned to them about the precautionary principle. If you have concerns or if the community has concerns, you err on the side of caution. She was arguing that some of the neighbours don’t have concerns. But if some people do have concerns, it’s the responsibility of the local government to take precautions.”

Despite increased concerns about the disintegrator from a growing number of community members, SNEC went into ‘Phase Two’ of the project with Kearns back in April of this year. Once the deal is finalized, SNEC will pay Kearns around 6 million dollars for the purchase of a brand new unit.

The Two Row Times spoke with a highly respectable community member who lives near the landfill site on Fourth Line who wished to remain anonymous. When asked if he noticed any smell coming from the unit, he stated, “There is definitely a toxic smell coming from that machine. It smells like tar and it is definitely a new smell. I know exactly when that machine is running back there because of the smell. It’s running right now actually because I can smell it.

“I know for sure this machine wouldn’t be allowed in the cities so why would we have something like this here. And it’s not like I can just move away from this thing. I’m pretty much stuck here. One of my sons lived with me but since the disintegrator was built back there, he got worried about the chemicals in the air and so he packed up and moved to the city.“

When asked if he was concerned about toxic chemicals being leaked into the air at the disintegrator site, he stated, “Yeah I’m scared, there’s no doubt about that. And even if they did air quality testing, how can they test for certain toxins that cause cancer. They shouldn’t have that machine back there, it shouldn’t be in my backyard.”

The biggest concern at last week’s community meeting was the lack of knowledge about waste incineration at the community level. Even SNEC seem to be oblivious to the various research studies conducted in the past few decades on the hazards of waste incineration. Many countries around the world have banned waste incineration.

What newer studies are now finding is that these machines produce what is known as nano-particles. According to Benneian, “No matter how advanced people claim disintegrator technology is, smaller toxic particles will be released into the air. These are known as nano-particles. There is no such thing as zero emissions,” stated Benneian.

“I always tell people, the first law of physics is that nothing is created nor destroyed. For someone to say he is able to burn any type of garbage without any sort of emissions is a lie. When burned, garbage either turns into ash or smoke. The toxins from the burned garbage don’t just disappear, it goes into the ashes and into smoke and eventually it goes into the air that we breathe,” stated Benneian.

In one study done on the effects of nanoparticles caused by waste incinerators, “Nano-particles, once inhaled, are able to penetrate into the blood stream in one minute. The blood stream then carries them into internal organs. The majority of the particles produced by waste incinerators fall into the nano particles category. Even the most advanced incinerators cannot efficiently filter these ultrafine particles.

“To increase the efficiency of an incinerator, often the combustion temperatures are increased and this leads to the generation of finer particles. The higher the combustion temperatures the finer the particles that will be generated. A finer particle will travel further and quicker into the human organism, reaching the blood and therefore the vital organs in a matter of minutes.

“Once particles of heavy metals enter the organism and, in the case of nano-particles, the cells’ cores, they can’t be eliminated. Waste incineration produces, amongst many other pollutants, ultrafine particles – such as heavy metals – and the demonstrated link between the exposure to these particles and the occurrence of a wide range of serious diseases – such as cancer, sarcomas, neurological diseases, fetal malformations and many others.”

What is even more worrisome, according to Benneian, is that there is currently no air quality test that can detect the deadly nano-particles.

Elected Chief Ava Hill told the Two Row Times in an email, “The Elected Council has not made the final decision to purchase the Kearns machine. We are not pushing this through and we have not signed any deals. We are in negotiations.

“We also made a commitment to have the air tested and staff are looking into who can do that testing. The Committee is meeting on Friday and will make a recommendation to Council. As to whether Council wants to listen to various experts about what they believe the hazards of this unit to be, that will be a decision that Council will make based on a recommendation from the Committee.”

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Jen MtPleasant

Jen MtPleasant

Tuscarora Nation. Honours BA Criminology, Class of 2013. Advocate for missing and murdered ogwehoweh men and women. @JenMtPleasant

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