Chemically tainted debris disposal studied

June 27, 2006 at 12:16 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) -- A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-supported study finds only minimal risks in placing chemically contaminated debris in municipal landfills.

The study's computer model -- developed by environmental engineers at the Technical University of Denmark and North Carolina State University -- could help policymakers and waste management officials determine what to do with such harmful materials in the wake of a chemical terrorist attack.

"The results indicate that burial in a landfill will not result in a massive release of toxic chemicals," said Morton Barlaz, the study's corresponding author. "Our work can now be used by scientists who specialize in health effects to confirm that landfill disposal is acceptable. All indications are this is the case."

The study's results must by verified by laboratory research, Barlaz cautioned. But, he said the finding is an important first step toward clarifying whether potentially lethal compounds -- such as sarin, mustard gas and VX -- could be safely contained in a municipal landfill.

The research is scheduled for publication in the July 1 issue of the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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