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Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Mar;108 Suppl 1:101-12.

Health effects of residence near hazardous waste landfill sites: a review of epidemiologic literature.

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Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.


This review evaluates current epidemiologic literature on health effects in relation to residence near landfill sites. Increases in risk of adverse health effects (low birth weight, birth defects, certain types of cancers) have been reported near individual landfill sites and in some multisite studies, and although biases and confounding factors cannot be excluded as explanations for these findings, they may indicate real risks associated with residence near certain landfill sites. A general weakness in the reviewed studies is the lack of direct exposure measurement. An increased prevalence of self-reported health symptoms such as fatigue, sleepiness, and headaches among residents near waste sites has consistently been reported in more than 10 of the reviewed papers. It is difficult to conclude whether these symptoms are an effect of direct toxicologic action of chemicals present in waste sites, an effect of stress and fears related to the waste site, or an effect of reporting bias. Although a substantial number of studies have been conducted, risks to health from landfill sites are hard to quantify. There is insufficient exposure information and effects of low-level environmental exposure in the general population are by their nature difficult to establish. More interdisciplinary research can improve levels of knowledge on risks to human health of waste disposal in landfill sites. Research needs include epidemiologic and toxicologic studies on individual chemicals and chemical mixtures, well-designed single- and multisite landfill studies, development of biomarkers, and research on risk perception and sociologic determinants of ill health.

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