The Health Impact of Nonhazardous Solid Waste Disposal in a Community: The Case of the Mare Chicose Landfill in Mauritius

By Goorah, Smita Sulackshana Devi; Esmyot, Mary Libera Isabelle et al. | Journal of Environmental Health, July 2009 | Go to article overview

The Health Impact of Nonhazardous Solid Waste Disposal in a Community: The Case of the Mare Chicose Landfill in Mauritius


Goorah, Smita Sulackshana Devi, Esmyot, Mary Libera Isabelle, Boojhawon, Ravindra, Journal of Environmental Health


Introduction

Like all small states with an expanding economy, the island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean (population 1.25 million) is faced with an ever-increasing production of waste. Solid waste management is centered on the first-ever and only controlled sanitary landfill of the country, the Mare Chicose landfill, which opened in 1997. Permitted wastes at the landfill include municipal solid wastes and also a limited quantity of hazardous wastes (less than 0.01% of waste input) subject to hazardous waste provisions. Unpermitted wastes include all liquid and medical wastes, biocides, acid, tars, oils, halogenated organic solvents, and radioactive materials (Department of Environment, 2001).

Landfills often give rise to health concerns in the community. Due to the limited literature on health effects of nonhazardous landfills, hazardous waste site studies have been analyzed to explore potential health outcomes. The analyzed studies include several single-site studies, mostly carried out in developed countries (Baker, Greenland, Mendlein, & Harmon, 1988; Dayal, Gupta, Trieff, Maierson, & Reich, 1995; Dunne, Burnett, Lawton, & Raphael, 1990; Hertzman, Hayes, Singer, & Highland, 1987; Logue & Fox, 1986; Najem, Strunck, & Feuerman, 1994; Ozonoff et al., 1987; Paigen, Goldman, Highland, Magnant, & Steegman, 1985; Vrijheid, 2000).

An increase in health outcomes such as headaches, sleepiness, respiratory symptoms, psychological conditions, gastrointestinal complaints, cancers, adverse pregnancy outcomes, abnormalities in liver function, and renal disease have been reported in such studies, although the relationship between landfill exposure and such outcomes is not conclusive (Vrijheid, 2000). It has also been reported recently that the rate of hospitalization for diabetes has increased in populations close to hazardous waste sites (Kouznetsova, Huang, Ma, Lessner, & Carpenter, 2007).

In landfill studies, it has been speculated that environmental worry, a raised perceived health risk, an increased recall, and reporting bias may have contributed to excess symptom reporting (Baker, Greenland, Mendlein, & Harmon, 1988; Lipscomb et al., 1991; Logue & Fox, 1986; Ozonoff et al., 1987; Roht et al., 1985). Several studies have highlighted the importance of confounding factors with respect to observational studies (Ozonoff et al., 1987; Rushton & Elliott, 2003; Vrijheid, 2000). Low statistical power and insufficient exposure information have been other limitations of landfill studies (Ozonoff et al., 1987; Palmer et al., 2005; Vrijheid, 2000). Thus, it is important to determine the nature of the contaminant, the route of exposure, the duration and distribution of exposure, individual susceptibility to hazardous chemicals, and levels of individual exposure to meaningfully evaluate the health impacts of landfills (Nuckols, Ward, & Jarup, 2004; Rushton & Elliott, 2003).

Adverse health impacts have been postulated to be either due to the direct toxicological effects of pollutants (Dayal, Gupta, Trieff, Maierson, & Reich, 1995; Hertzman, Hayes, Singer, & Highland, 1987) or the physiological or psychosomatic result of stress due to actual or perceived environmental threat (Dunne, Burnett, Lawton, & Raphael, 1990; Elliott et al., 1993; Lipscomb et al., 1991; Neutra, Lipscomb, Satin, & Shusterman, 1991).

Few studies have investigated the health impact of nonhazardous wastes. A study conducted near Poland's largest municipal waste site revealed that psychological, digestive tract, respiratory, and allergic complaints may have been associated with the waste site (Zejda et al., 2000). Another study investigating the psychosocial effects of exposure to nonhazardous solid waste revealed that such effects occurred whether the exposure to contaminants was actual or perceived (Elliott et al., 1993). It may be postulated that adverse health effects associated with nonhazardous solid waste landfills result from their environmental impact, which includes the airborne emissions due to decomposition of waste, the negative impact of odorous emissions, and the formation of chemical containing leachate (El-Fadel, Findikakis & Leckie, 1997). …

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