Will railway-tie plant give off nanoparticles?

Kamloops Daily News
January 18, 2010 01:00 AM

The application for a Ministry of Environment permit to install a gasification plant on Mission Flats touched off a public debate that has been waged for the past several months.

Approval of that permit early this month has heightened the debate, with opponents expressing concerns for the health of our community.

A common thread in the controversy is that people believe they don't have enough information to express an informed opinion. They say there are many questions and not enough answers.

The Daily News will do its best to identify those questions and provide answers. We don't suggest the answers will always be definitive, because many of the issues are technical, and some are philosophical in nature.

What we will do is attempt to obtain balanced responses. We welcome questions and comments that add to a better understanding of the issues surrounding the project.

Send them to editor@kamloopsnews.ca and we'll do our best to respond in laymen's terms, and publish the results on Mondays or as space permits.

- Editor

Q: How many waste railway ties will be processed by the ACC gasification plant?

A: About 450 a day. The two gasifiers are capable of handling about 20 per hour each at maximum capacity.

Source: Jason Bourgeois, Ministry of Environment; Kim Sigurdson, president Aboriginal Cogeneration Corp.

Q: What are nonoparticles and what have they got to do with the gasification process?

A: "Ultrafine particles (UFP) or nanoparticles, are very small pieces of matter defined as having dimensions less than 10-7 m. They constitute a small proportion of the mass of almost all types of particulate material. They also constitute the majority of the number of particles found in aerosols produced as a result of combustion processes. Their importance in the field of catalyst manufacturing, where their high surface area has a very great influence on reactivity, is widely known. However, at present we know relatively little about their detailed structure, or their chemical and physical properties.... Not only do a high proportion of the UFPs escape the filters, but they are chemically reactive and carry a wide range of products of incomplete combustion and adsorbed metals with them. The subsequent direct uptake of these respirable particles and the ready transfer from the lungs into the blood stream may be part of the reason that traditional toxicology is at a loss to explain the level of impacts for such apparently low exposures. Aerosols in the ultra-fine size range have much higher mobility in the air and can more effectively deposit in the respiratory system."

Source: Prof. C. Vyvyan Howard, University of Ulster, excerpt from Particulate Emissions and Health, June 2009

A: "Nanoparticles have been with us since time began. Some are man-made, the internal combustion engine being a great example, while some are not, such as microscopic dust particles or the chemical components of the smoke from the forest fires of last summer. Oddly enough, there is no internationally accepted definition of what constitutes a nanoparticle, but there is a growing consensus that it is material or matter with a dimension of 100nm (nanometers) or less. . . . We have been unable to find definitive results that link nanoparticles and disease. Using the World Health Organization's data, we'd like to see if there is a link between incinerators (there are nearly 500 operating in Europe) and the prevalence of diseases. So, who and what emit nanoparticles? Just about everything, including us. When we breathe, cough, sneeze or walk down the street, we are leaving a trail of nanoparticles. Microscopic traces of us are constantly being left behind and if you include bacteria and bacteria residue, some can even cause illness such as the flu or a cold. Will the proposed ACC gasifier emit nanoparticles too? Yes, the generator that burns the gasifiers' Syngas will emit nanoparticles similar to but at a lesser volume than what is coming out of the tail pipe of your own vehicle. Is it dangerous or toxic? Taken in that context, our drive to work (in just one car) this morning likely created the same or more nanoparticle emissions than the proposed gasifier."

- Source: Interior Science Innovation Council

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