How Can We Let This Happen to Pune Air? Used Pads Incinerators Spewing Cancer-causing gases!!!
In the course of my research as to what happens with about 16453125 disposable sanitary pads that get thrown away in Pune every month (see 6), I came across some absolutely shocking facts. I am aghast at the complete apathy and unscientific attitude of the Pune Municipal Corporation officials towards the issue. PMC is directly (possibly unknowingly) funding release of cancer causing gases in Pune’s air!!!
Let us understand some basics about incineration. Incinerators, in simple language are special devices to burn waste. There are different types of incinerators in use across the world. Some are very large, industrial grade plants, which take solid waste and convert into electricity. Then there are some special purpose incinerators such as those for burning animal carcasses and those for burning sanitary pad waste and others for handling bio-medical waste generated by hospitals.
The process of incineration is not just the burning of what is fed to it. It has to also ensure that the process will not release anything that is harmful for either humans or the environment. For this, WHO recommends that incinerators have to operate at at-least 850c temperature so as to completely destroy highly toxic and carcinogenic gases called furans and dioxins that get released during burning of chlorinated plastic.
Disposable pads have chlorine and plastic in them. This mix of Chlorine and plastic, when burned, releases highly dangerous carcinogenic gases. WHO has published extensive data on the harmful impact of these gases on humans and on the environment.
All this information is in Public Domain. Yet, in Pune, PMC commissioned 12 incinerators for disposal of menstrual pad waste which do not meet any of the safety requirements recommended by WHO. These incinerators are operating at 350-450c temperature which is well below recommended temperature of 850c. This means these devices are a source of extremely carcinogenic fumes being released into Pune’s air. Even the staff at these installations is not aware of the health hazard and is seen without any protective gear.
These incinerators are operational across the city in densely populated areas. Many of them were installed as early as 2012. In 2018, a contract worth 72 lacks per year has been provided to an incinerator operator. There is a proposal to install more of these incinerators across Pune city.
This puts a question mark on the process followed by PMC before adopting any solution. One would hope that an expert committee would have helped PMC pick the right solution. But none of that seems to have happened. I do not know who within PMC would take the responsibility for releasing cancer-causing gases into Pune’s air.
There are other people talking about the serious environmental and health hazards involved. Noted researcher Isher Judge Ahluwalia wrote about the struggles of Oakhla residents with incinerator’s ill-effects. Communities are waking up the world over to the hazards of incinerators and focusing on sacred Mantra of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle!
As far as Pune is concerned, I hope we and our children get to breath cleaner air!
- Dioxin was classified a known human carcinogen by IARC in 1997
- Cancers linked to Dioxin are
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
- Soft Tissue Sarcoma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lumphoma
- Respiratory Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Waste Incineration and Public Health (2000), Committee on Health Effects of Waste Incineration, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council, National Academy Press, pp. 6-7
Data Source PMC Population Estimates – 64.5 Lakh http://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/pune-population/ Demographic Division in Age Groups – 50% Between 15 and 45 https://www.indexmundi.com/india/demographics_profile.html % of population of menstruating age using disposable pads – 75% Assumed, based on observations within the vastis we are working No of Pads Used per woman per month 15 Weight of 1 Used Pad – 10 gms https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19137461 + Dry Pad weight + Accumulated moisture Incinerator Waste Collection 5 kg per day per incinerator – as told by the contractor