MEET THE EXPERT
Health risk assessment from the emissions of thermochemical waste-to-energy plants

 

SESSION C6 / 17 November 2020 / 16:15 - 16:45
MEET THE EXPERT
Marco Schiavon, University of Trento (IT)


Health risk assessment from the emissions of thermochemical waste-to-energy plants





At present, the thermochemical treatment of waste represents a fundamental step in integrated waste management. Thermochemical waste treatments, such as incineration, gasification and pyrolysis, give the advantage of reducing the amount of waste to landfill, converting the waste into inert material and, meanwhile, recovering energy. Thermochemical waste-to-energy (WtE) plants have been subjected to more and more stringent regulations over the last decades, concerning the emission limit values of a large range of hazardous substances. Stricter regulations, combined with the definition of the best available techniques for this sector, have determined a significant decrease in the emissions of air pollutants from the waste sector, with specific regards to dioxin. On the other hand, this has let other contaminants emerge as primary pollutants of concern for public health, such as heavy metals. Among metals, chromium should receive specific attention. Its hexavalent form (Cr VI) has the maximum carcinogenic potency among heavy metals. Recent literature studies demonstrate that thermochemical WtE plants could be an important source of Cr VI in the atmosphere. Since inhalation represents the major route of exposure, the issue of Cr VI emissions should be considered carefully when assessing the potential health risk from WtE plants, for instance during the environmental impact assessment procedure. In addition, in the European Union, the current legislation does not consider the role of Cr VI, but only sets one overall stack concentration limit value for the sum of the concentrations of a large group of heavy metals, including total Cr. In the light of the importance of this topic and on the potential consequences for public health, this work has the following targets:

  • to present a methodology to carry out a complete health risk assessment when dealing with existing or planned thermochemical WtE plants;
  • to highlight the potential role of the different air pollutants, with a specific focus on Cr VI;
  • to provide insights into new criteria that the environmental legislation should consider not to underestimate the potential role of heavy metals for human health. To facilitate the understanding of the topic, an example based on a real case study will be provided.


Marco Schiavon graduated at the University of Trento (Italy) in 2010 and obtained his PhD in Environment Engineering in 2016. His research activity focuses on environmental pollution, health risk estimation, waste management, air quality monitoring and modeling, and air pollution control technologies. He took part as a speaker in 13 international conferences. He is the author and co-author of 49 peer-review publications indexed in the Scopus database.