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Incinerator tests find possible carcinogen

Region attributes high numbers from air monitoring report to nearby highway, farms

Incinerator

According to a quarterly report for the Durham York Energy Centre’s ambient air monitoring program, high levels of benzo(a)pyren, a compound that some studies have linked to heightened risks of cancer. The Region of Durham says the increased levels, with one test showing levels 315 per cent above provincial standards, can be attributed to nearby agriculture and Highway 401.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

With councillors debating another exceedance of dioxins and furans at the Durham York Energy Centre, the facility’s quarterly report details another emission that was above limits. However, the region says there is nothing to worry about.

According to the quarterly ambient air monitoring report published on the website for the incinerator, levels of benzo(a)pyrene were above provincial standards. The results were found in two separate samples collected from the incinerator’s two air monitoring stations in February, and found one sample to be 17 per cent higher, while the other came in at 315 per cent above provincial standards.

According to Health Canada, the main natural sources of benzo(a)pyrene are forest fires and volcano eruptions, while the main man-made sources are vehicle combustion, coke oven emissions and fossil fuels. The federal entity says that benzo(a)pyrene can also be found in broiled and charcoal-broiled meats, spinach, crude coconut oil and tea.

Health Canada adds that while there are no human health effects unequivocally associated with exposure to benzo(a)pyrene, studies have linked it to heightened risks of cancer.

Mirka Januszkiewicz, the region’s director of waste management, says that the answer to why there was such a high level of benzo(a)pyrene lies just north of the incinerator: Highway 401.

“When we took the samples, the wind direction was from the north…and it had been identified in the report that it was primarily from agricultural use and from Highway 401. They were the main contributors to this chemical,” she says.

“We are confident that this exceedance is caused by other activities outside our facility.”

Januszkiewicz adds that with the growing expansion of Highway 407 and other road construction efforts, levels of benzo(a)pyrene will only go up.