Dioxins are the unwanted by-product of low temperature uncontrolled burning.
At a certain dosage, 17 dioxins have been identified as posing a risk to human health. Most of our exposure (over 90%) to dioxins comes through the food chain. They persist in body fat and remain in the body for a very long period of time. There are many sources of dioxins to the Irish environment including smoking, transport, home heating and some types of industrial processes, but back-yard burning of waste is the single greatest source of dioxins to the Irish environment.
“IF DIOXINS ARE SO TOXIC, AND INCINERATORS PRODUCE THEM, SURELY BUILDING INCINERATORS WILL INCREASE THE LEVELS OF DIOXINS IN THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT?” WRONG
Properly managing our waste will reduce the impact waste has on our environment – including dioxin emissions.
Currently most dioxins come from uncontrolled backyard burning of waste. Most of this waste should be composted or recycled with the remainder going to disposal in properly managed incinerators or landfill sites. If all of the waste that is currently being burned was handled in this way, the levels of dioxins in Ireland would decrease dramatically. This is because backyard burning usually occurs at a temperature of about 200-400°C which is the temperature at which dioxins are formed; incinerators burn waste at over 850°C, the temperature at which dioxins are destroyed. Ensuring that waste management has the least possible impact on the environment will involve providing all of the infrastructure necessary to maximise recycling, recover energy from the waste that cannot be recycled and keep landfill to a minimum.