Burning hazardous and-or toxic waste in the Irish Cement Factory

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Irish Cement Factory

The Irish Cement Factory has been built to produce cement. It has not built to burn waste, any type of waste. When the discussion comes to toxic and hazardous waste, I have some questions in relation to the toxicity of these waste and hence the toxicity of the emitted chemicals.

We need to remember that burning organic waste (i.e. waste rich in polymers, possibly tainted with heavy metals etc) is a process that can emit heavy metals entrapped in PM2.5 (particulate matter with diameter 2.5μm) and the toxicity of these PM2.5 can be extremely high as shown here.


Heavy metals and dioxins

However, it isn’t only the PM2.5 that must make us worry about the toxicity of the emissions from the chimney of any cement factory that are not built for purpose (the purpose here is the incineration of hazardous waste). Apart from PM2.5 that have entrapped heavy metals, it is the question of the carcinogenic dioxins that will be emitted to the atmosphere by burning hazardous and/or toxic waste. Dioxins are lethal. Here is what WHO have reported on the toxicity of dioxins.


Cement factories and the food chain

In the University of Limerick (UL), in the module FT4428 “Advanced Food Chemistry”, we have carried an extensive study on this problem.

Final year students of the program “Food Science and Health” at UL have worked from 4 different points of view. Some groups worked for a dairy industry in the vicinity of Irish Cement, Mungret, Ireland.

5 groups worked on assessing the production of safe foods by the dairy industry

5 groups worked as if they were working for EPA, assessing the license application (and the objections!) and operations of Irish Cement

5 groups worked for FSAI


3 groups worked for NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF or representing the citizens.

Each group produced a written report assessing the hazards and ways to manage them.
The results of this amazing amount of the students scholar work can be found here.


The oral hearing

The EPA has announced it will hold a virtual hearing on 2 December 2020, dealing with objections to the project from 16 individuals and groups, including the Limerick Against Pollution LAP group, the Limerick Metropolitan council, Limerick city and county council, a number of local TDs and the University of Limerick.

We are going to take part at that hearing and present our case on the:


  • Hazardous waste and the Food Chain


  • Toxicity of Emissions and the Public Health


  • Monitoring mechanisms – are they adequate?


What I am going to bring to the hearing is my more than 10 years experience working with heavy metals and the food chain as shown here and here.

Ioannis Zabetakis

Head, Biological Sciences,