Partial replacement of fossil fuels in a cement plant: Assessment of human health risks by metals, metalloids and PCDD/Fs


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Abstract

In 2009, a cement plant located in Alcanar (South Catalonia, Spain) started co-processing a special kind of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) called ENERFUEL™. In April 2014 and 2017, 5 and 8 years after RDF co-processing, the concentrations of metals and metalloids (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sb, Tl, V and Zn) and PCDD/Fs were measured in samples of soils, herbage and air collected in the vicinity of the facility. The comparison of the current concentrations with those obtained in a baseline study (2008), when fossil fuels were used solely, has shown that the environmental concentrations of metals, metalloids and PCDD/Fs were not significantly modified. The concentrations of metals, metalloids and PCDD/Fs in soil, vegetation and air of Alcanar are in the low part of the ranges found around other cement plants in Catalonia (in general, below 50th percentile). Non-carcinogenic risks due to exposure to metals, metalloids and PCDD/Fs were lower than the safety value (HQ<1). In turn, carcinogenic risks were below the 105 Spanish threshold. The present results corroborate that, from an environmental point of view, the use of wastes as alternative fuels (AF) in a cement plant, which is operating with suitable technical conditions, is a good option for waste management. It contributes towards overcoming challenges such as climate change and fossil fuel depletion, while utilizing principles of circular economy.HighlightsThe environmental concentrations of metals and dioxins were not significantly modified.Non-carcinogenic risks (metals and dioxins) were lower than the safety value (HQ<1).Carcinogenic risks were below the Spanish 10−5 threshold.The use of wastes as alternative fuels is being a good option for waste management.

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