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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 21:49 GMT
Inquiry into use of incinerator ash
waste ash
The ash came from an incinerator in Edmonton
An investigation is underway by the Environment Agency into the use of incinerated material for construction, amid fears it may contain cancer-causing dioxins.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Tuesday night, junior environment minister Lord Whitty said there would be a "full and thorough" investigation into the destination of ash from incinerators.

He also disclosed that Environment Minister Michael Meacher had apologised for "inaccurate" replies he inadvertently gave on the dioxin content of ash from the municipal incinerator at Edmonton.

'Action taken'

Lord Whitty said: "This thorough investigation will establish the true picture for all municipal waste incinerators.

"Its results will be made public and any necessary action will be taken."

The announcement follows allegations made on BBC's Newsnight programme in July.

Michael Meacher
Michael Meacher: Not advised of dioxin levels

The Newsnight investigation found incinerator ash contaminated with dioxins from burned PVC was scattered on allotments.

It was also used to build a bypass at Waltham Abbey and car parks at the Ford factory in Dagenham, Essex, as well as in blocks widely used in the building industry.

Newsnight had said independent tests on a sample from Edmonton had indicated it contained 343nanograms of dioxin per kilogram.

That is 60 times the average amount found in soil, and 10 times the level that Mr Meacher had estimated should be present in construction products.

'Regrets inaccuracy'

Lord Whitty said "the Minister of State for the Environment", whom he did not name, was grateful for the opportunity to "clarify" his written replies of 26 March and of the previous 11 July.

He said when the Commons minister replied to a question in March, he was "not advised" of the fact that the Environment Agency had been given an estimate in July 1998 of the dioxin content of the mixed ash, based on a 1997 analysis of the fly ash.

Lord Whitty said: "He was not advised about this when he replied to the second of these questions and regrets any consequent inaccuracy in his answer."

He continued: "Until August 2000, the Edmonton incinerator mixed bottom ash and precipitator ash.

"From August 1998 to May 1999, this mixed ash was reprocessed and used in the production of concrete building blocks. This ash has also been used as an aggregate."

Neither the environment department nor the Environment Agency routinely held information on the dioxin content of ash from incinerators, Lord Whitty said in a Lords written reply.

Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

04 Jul 01 | Health
Dioxin ash 'used to build houses'
23 Apr 01 | UK
Dioxins: What are they?
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