ROME, Italy, Thursday May 26, 2016 – With solid waste disposal becoming more of an issue in several Caribbean countries, a new study suggesting that living near a landfill can significantly increase the risk of lung disease comes as unwelcome news.
The study of nearly 250,000 people found that not only those living within three miles of a landfill were more likely to be admitted to hospital or die with lung disease, but noted that children were particularly at risk.
The study, conducted by the Lazio Environmental Protection Agency in Rome, tracked 242,000 people living close to one of nine landfill sites in central Italy.
The participants were monitored for at least five years, and researchers found that those who were exposed to more airborne pollutants were at higher risk of lung cancer and other breathing problems.
The researchers tracked levels of hydrogen sulphide – a noxious gas produced by rotting garbage, often referred to as “the bad egg gas” on account of its smell.
The scientists then divided all those living within three miles of the landfill into four groups, depending on how high their exposure to hydrogen sulphide was.
The participants with the highest exposure levels were 34 percent more likely to die from lung cancer than people who lived more than three miles away from the site, the researchers found.
The participants in that group were also 30 percent more likely to die from other respiratory diseases, and five percent more likely to receive hospital treatment for all respiratory diseases, including nine percent for asthma.
Children were even more at risk, with an 11 percent increased chance of being admitted to hospital for respiratory disease, and a 13 percent higher risk of asthma.
The Italian researchers were said to have been careful to track pollution levels to make sure they could match disease levels to exposure to toxins.
While concluding that more research is needed to confirm the link, particularly to lung cancer, the scientists added that it was unlikely that the increased death rates were “entirely due to unmeasured smoking habits and other factors.”
The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.