Medical waste incinerators are notorious for releasing pollutants such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, dangerous gases

including carbon monoxide, benzene and, most importantly, deadly dioxins. In fact, there used to be 6,000 of these facilities in our country and there are now 57 medical waste incinerators left in the United States because of their dangerous toxic emissions.

Dioxin is one of the most toxic and persistent pollutants known to science. In fact, it was used in the Vietnam War as a component of Agent Orange. It is a Class 1 human carcinogen. It increases one’s chances of cancer by 1000-fold. The EPA has stated there is NO safe level of dioxin exposure. It is costly to try and contain dioxin, and therefore dioxin migrates through the atmosphere into the community in the form of ‘fly ash’. This ash travels in the air and settles into surrounding creeks, lakes, pastures, residences, gardens, etc. It affects our food chain in that it settles into everything we eat, drink, grow (including cattle, chickens, chickens’ eggs, etc.) In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has stated that medical waste incinerators are responsible for 40% of the entire country’s air dioxin pollution. The reality is that medical waste incinerators don’t eliminate toxic substances, they concentrate them. They are still present after incineration and about 30% of those toxins remain as ash at the end of the process. As stated above, that ‘ash’ then becomes a part of everything we breathe and eat or drink. It even migrates into our air conditioning systems. There is no escape from this toxin. It is especially dangerous in a rural community such as ours where so many of us farm and raise cattle and other livestock for consumption.

Mercury is another common emission from the smokestack of the incinerator. It is a known danger to unborn and small children, causing mental retardation, learning disabilities, ADHD, and impairment to language and memory. Mercury can migrate in the air for many miles. In fact, 1/28th of an ounce of mercury can contaminate a 20-acre lake, making the fish unsafe to eat.

There is an alternative to medical waste incinerators. Medical waste can be disposed of by autoclaves (as used in doctors’ office to sanitize medical equipment and surgical equipment) or microwaves. Once the waste is sanitized by either of these methods, it can then be disposed of via ordinary waste practices (just as you would dispose of your house trash). There is also the radiant heat processing, electron beam technology, and other safe methods of dealing with biohazardous waste. These methods of disposal are also more economical than incineration. Incineration also causes losses of jobs for those who work in the recycling industry and loss of profits from secondary resale.

The Jacksonville lobbyist, Alberta Hipps, has indicated this is a ‘state of the art’ facility. Incinerators are, in fact, antiquated and date back to the 1930’s. A truly ‘state of the art’ facility mainly utilizes the autoclave or microwave method, releasing nothing into our atmosphere. As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, the company wanting to build this 92,800 square foot structure has NEVER built one before. They are simply a company who is licensed in 5 states to haul medical waste, not

dispose of it. This means someone with absolutely no experience will be building and managing something about which they have no knowledge. Trial and error is not an option when dealing with deadly toxins.

In conclusion, for the health of our community, our children and our families, we should be doing everything possible to avoid importing medical waste that nobody else wants in their community. There is no dollar amount that could possibly justify the health issues that will certainly arise from this proposition.

The county commissioners are pushing this as an opportunity for 59 new jobs in our county. However, no promise can be made that 59 jobs will go to Baker County residents. To work at type of facility would require special training and would likely be outsourced to individuals already trained in hazardous waste handling.
Sources for the information contained in this letter were gathered from: Global Healthcare Waste Project ( Article by Andy Harris, M.D. ( s.html New York Times