Living near a landfill could damage your health

May 25, 2016

According to research published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology, health is at risk for those who live within five kilometres of a landfill site.

Researchers in Italy evaluated the potential health effects of living near nine different landfills in the Lazio region, and therefore being exposed to air pollutants emitted by the waste treatment plants. 242,409 people were enrolled in the cohort from 1996 to 2008.

The results showed a strong association between Hydrogen Sulphide (used as a surrogate for all pollutants co-emitted from the landfills) and deaths caused by lung cancer, as well as deaths and hospitalizations for respiratory diseases. The results were especially prominent in children. The annual average exposure levels of Hydrogen Sulphide was 6.3 ng/m3, compared to people living close to larger landfills in Rome whose levels averaged At the end of the follow-up period there were 18,609 deaths.

Co-author Francesca Mataloni commented that, “The evidence on the health of those living near landfills is still controversial. Most of the published studies only use aggregate health data and do not adjust for social-economic status. We have used a residential cohort approach to attempt to overcome these limitations.”

Respiratory symptoms were detected among residents living close to waste sites. These were linked to inhalation exposure to endotoxin, microorganisms, and aerosols from waste collection and land filling. This is consistent with other studies; however the association between living proximity to landfill sites and cases of lung cancer is a new finding. The authors stressed that further studies need to be completed to confirm this.

Morbidity and mortality of people who live close to municipal waste landfills: a multisite cohort study

  1. Francesca Mataloni1,*,
  2. Chiara Badaloni1,
  3. Martina Nicole Golini1,
  4. Andrea Bolignano2,
  5. Simone Bucci1,
  6. Roberto Sozzi2,
  7. Francesco Forastiere1,
  8. Marina Davoli1 and
  9. Carla Ancona1

+ Author Affiliations

  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, Rome, Italy

  2. 2Lazio Environmental Protection Agency, Rome, Italy
  1. *Corresponding Author. Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, Via Cristoforo Colombo, 112. 00147 Rome, Italy. E-mail:
  • Accepted January 27, 2016.


Background: The evidence on the health effects related to residing close to landfills is controversial. Nine landfills for municipal waste have been operating in the Lazio region (Central Italy) for several decades. We evaluated the potential health effects associated with contamination from landfills using the estimated concentration of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) as exposure.

Methods: A cohort of residents within 5 km of landfills was enrolled (subjects resident on 1 January 1996 and those who subsequently moved into the areas until 2008) and followed for mortality and hospitalizations until 31 December 2012. Assessment of exposure to the landfill (H2S as a tracer) was performed for each subject at enrolment, using a Lagrangian dispersion model. Information on several confounders was available (gender, age, socioeconomic position, outdoor PM10 concentration, and distance from busy roads and industries). Cox regression analysis was performed [Hazard Ratios (HRs), 95% confidence intervals (CIs)].

Results: The cohort included 242 409 individuals. H2S exposure was associated with mortality from lung cancer and respiratory diseases (e.g. HR for increment of 1 ng/m3 H2S: 1.10, 95% CI 1.02–1.19; HR 1.09, 95% CI 1.00–1.19, respectively). There were also associations between H2S and hospitalization for respiratory diseases (HR = 1.02, 95% CI 1.00–1.03), especially acute respiratory infections among children (0–14 years) (HR = 1.06, 95% CI 1.02–1.11).

Conclusions: Exposure to H2S, a tracer of airborne contamination from landfills, was associated with lung cancer mortality as well as with mortality and morbidity for respiratory diseases. The link with respiratory disease is plausible and coherent with previous studies, whereas the association with lung cancer deserves confirmation.

Source: Oxford University Press

Source: Living near a landfill could damage your health | Science Codex

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