I thank the Minister for taking the time and trouble to come into the House to listen to this debate this evening.
As the terms of the Adjournment Motion indicate very clearly, there is a great deal of concern among many people in the Dublin area in general about the proposal to construct an incinerator at St. James's Hospital. That concern extends throughout the city. It is particularly strong close to St. James's Hospital, in Rialto and in the areas south of the canal.
It is essential that the environmental impact study should go ahead. I understand there is an obligation to conduct such a study and that is going to be done. It is also very important that the results of the environmental impact study be published and that its terms of reference should be made available. The public wishes to know when this study will be completed and to what extent the information available will be forthcoming.
The manner in which this country has implemented the EC directive which requires that such studies be carried out is unsatisfactory. The Minister is only too well aware that Article 3 of that directive has not been fully implemented here. Accordingly, there is no obligation on this country to make all the details available. I would ask the Minister for a commitment that those details will be made known.
I am concerned also that we should have full information on all the alternatives and all the options for the disposal of clinical waste. It is very important that the decision should be reached only after those alternatives are fully explained and analysed and after the implications of all the options are made known.
Concern is not confined to the residents who live in the general area adjoining St. James's Hospital. I understand 700 members of the staff of St. James's Hospital have signed a petition asking that this proposal should not be implemented, that the incinerator should not be located there. Of those 700, I am sure very many would be medically qualified, many would have nursing qualifications and scientific qualifications. These people are particularly well informed on the risks which arise from the disposal of clinical waste.
The Minister is only too well aware of the dangers attached to incineration, and the likely production of toxic chemicals. I suggest to the Minister that the full implications of the effects of small doses of toxic chemicals, or potentially toxic chemicals, are not well understood. We do not have an adequate level of data to be able to speak with certainty or confidence about the long term implications of low levels of exposure. Of particular concern is the effect and impact of the incineration of PVC materials, substances which give rise to a whole series of chemicals, in particular dioxin, which is of major concern. However, I would not limit the concern just to dioxin. A whole series of chemicals is involved.
People are worried about the long term effects of this proposal, the effects of exposure during pregnancy and the danger to young people, which could impact on them later on. One has only to look at the studies on stilbestrol which was used with great confidence some years ago. We are now seeing all too clearly the terrifying effecs which that has had on the daughters of mothers who were treated with it during pregnancy. I would like the Minister to take those concerns into account.