Households top Irish dioxin emitters` list

ireland's first dioxin emissions inventory has turned conventional notions on their head. The recently compiled document has found that domestic burning of waste, rather than incineration, is the biggest source of dioxins in the country. The 'Inventory of Dioxin and Furan emissions to air, land and water in Ireland for 2000 and 2010', has been prepared by Dublin-based environment consultants urs Dames and Moore for the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (iepa).

According to the inventory, a total of 93 grammes (gm) of dioxins were generated in 2000, out of which almost 74 per cent were from uncontrolled combustion, such as waste-burning and accidental building fires (see table: Keeping track). The report further pointed out that nine hazardous waste incinerators in Ireland were responsible for less than one per cent of the total dioxin emissions in 2000.

Dioxins are persistent organic pollutants with adverse health effects. They are formed when chlorine-containing substances are burned along with carbon and suitable catalysts in the presence of excess air or oxygen. They need to be phased out as per the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Alarmingly, an increase in dioxin emissions is projected from 93 gm in 2000 to 110 gm in 2010.

Dioxins are not monitored in India on the ground that scrutinising them is very expensive. Hence there is no data available on dioxins in India. Experts say that dioxin emissions might be very high as burning waste in households is a common practice (see: Molecules of death; August 31, 2001).

Keeping track
Dioxin emissions to air, land and water in Ireland in 2000 (in percentage)
Category Air Water Land
Waste incineration 0.02 0.16 0.01
Ferrous and non-ferrous metal production 6.15 0 2.85
Power generation and heating 9.76 0 14.22
Mineral products 5.87 0 0
Transport 2.85 0 0
Uncontrolled combustion 75.34 0 74.01
Production and use of chemical and consumer goods 0 0 1.58
Miscellaneous 0 0 0.01
Disposal/landfill 0 99.84 7.33
Source: Fergus Hayes and Ian Marnane 2002, Inventory of Dioxin and Furan Emissions to air, land and water in Ireland for 2000 and 2010, Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland, p2-3.