Landfilling should be the last option in an integrated Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management approach. In the European Union (EU), the policy framework to protect the environment and the public health against the impact of health hazards related to urban solid waste management has been consistently implemented in recent decades. A growing interest in the negative impact of fires in waste landfills on the environment and people’s health was reported in some European countries. In Italy, an increasing occurrence of arsons in MSW and landfills has been reported in recent years. During the summer of 2012, a multi-site arson occurred in the Palermo Municipal solid waste landfill of Bellolampo (western Sicily), giving rise to an environmental emergency of public health concern. Local health authorities reacted by creating an inter-institutional multidisciplinary task force with the aim to implement measures to prevent and control the risk of exposure by delimiting a protection area to be taken under strict monitoring. Environmental and epidemiological investigations were put in place by air, soil, and farm product sampling. A syndromic surveillance of the exposed population was conducted as well. The air monitoring stations system in place detected an increase in the concentrations of dioxins and dioxin-like substances with the PM10 highest emission pick documented within the first 24 h and estimated at about 60 µg/m3. Levels of heavy metals above the limits permitted by law were detected in the top-and sub-soil samples collected within the two landfill sampling sites and also in other nearby sites. Non-conforming concentration values of dioxins and dioxin-like substances were detected in samples taken from farms, milk, and water. The health syndromic surveillance did not document any daily increase in the notification of emergency admissions related to acute respiratory diseases or any other health effect potentially related to the waste arson, but these findings were limited by the non-systematic collection of data. The experience reported in the present case report, as declined within the European Union policy framework and in the view of environmental justice, documented the need to structure a permanent collaboration between the different institutional actors involved in environmental and public health protection activities in order to develop specific protocols to manage events related to the occurrence of waste-related environmental emergencies or disasters.
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis