North Carolina, Florida, and Mass. doctors speak out against “biomass” burning

As Delaware Governor Jack Markell rolls over to the burner people, consider how this issue is playing out elsewhere…..

The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians (NCAFP) has joined the Florida and Massachusetts medical societies in taking a position against "biomass" burning.  The April 19th letter (also attached, with citations) speaks for itself:

April 19, 2010

The Honorable Dee Freeman
Secretary
N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources
1601 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699–1601

Dear Secretary Freeman:

In recognition of the numerous and serious adverse health consequences that can result from human exposure to the components of emissions of biomass burning, the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians (NCAFP) is issuing a letter of concern regarding the development of biomass burning plants in the State of North Carolina.

Biomass burning of poultry litter and wood wastes creates emissions of particulate matter that research has shown increase the risk of premature death, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease. (1, 2) This burning process also creates numerous byproducts, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that increase smog and ozone, which are known to increase lung disease and mortality (3); sulfur dioxides which also contribute to respiratory disease (4); arsenic which can increase the risk of cancer (5); mercury which can increase the risk of brain and kidney disease and affect the developing fetus (6); and dioxins which may increase the risk of cancer, heart
disease, diabetes mellitus, developmental delays in children, neurotoxicity, and thyroid disease (7). These health effects would increase disability and death in all age groups, but particularly in the most vulnerable�developing fetuses, newborns, children, those with chronic illness, and the elderly. As a result of this increased disability and disease, medical costs in the state will increase.

One of the reasons for encouraging renewable energy through legislation like the North Carolina Clean Smokestack law was to provide cleaner air for citizens. However, there is concern that burning of poultry litter may result in similar or greater emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide to coalburning plants (8). The NCAFP requests that the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources strongly consider the potentially harmful consequences to the health and wellbeing of North Carolina citizens when contemplating the permitting of biomass burning plants in the state.

With best regards,

R.W. (Chip) Watkins, MD, MPH
President, NC Academy of Family Physicians

cc: Jeffrey P. Engle, MD, North Carolina State Health Director
Jennifer L. Mullendore, MD, Co-Chair, NCAFP Health of the Public Council
Thomas R. White, MD, Co-Chair, NCAFP Health of the Public Council
Gregory K. Griggs, MPA, CAE, NCAFP Executive Vice President

Massachusetts Medical Society testimony:

"The Massachusetts Medical Society believes that biomass combustion electricity generation plants pose an unacceptable public health risk, and urges the adoption of state policies that minimize the approval and construction of new biomass plants, remove government incentives for biomass combustion electricity generation plants, support renewable energy technologies with zero-pollutant emissions, and promote energy efficiency and conservation."

From Florida:

"RESOLVED, That the Florida Medical Association urges state government to adopt policies to minimize the approval and construction of new incinerators including mass-burn, gasification, plasma, pyrolysis, biomass, refuse-derived fuel and other incinerator technologies, and to develop a plan to retire existing outdated incinerators; …"

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