Jean-Christophe Destailleur, the mayor (various center) of Halluin, in the North, is worried. In this town of 22,000 inhabitants, located between Lille and the Belgian border, it is not the only one. Before him, a gastroenterologist moved heaven and earth for a long time so that the health authorities looked into the consequences of the discharges of dioxins spat out for thirty-one years by the old household waste incinerator located at the entrance to the town. .
In his practice, between 2003 and 2005, Doctor Jean Lefebvre observed a number “abnormally high” cancers among his patients living in Halluin and Roncq and Neuville-en-Ferrain, two neighboring towns, “especially in young women, without predisposing genetic factors or risky behavior”. The closing of the old incinerator, in 2002, was still in people’s minds. Four years earlier, Danone had discovered dioxins in the milk of cows bought from breeders in Halluin. Sixteen cattle had to be slaughtered. A scenario which was repeated at the end of 2001. New levies had led the authorities to prohibit the marketing of vegetables grown on the territory as well as that of milk and eggs.
Equipped with smoke filtering systems and analyzes of dioxin releases within regulatory limits, the new incinerator of the Energy Recovery Center started up the following year, in 2003, theoretically had everything to reassure the population after this trauma. But, in Halluin, we are always wary of smoke.
“No longer eating local products”
By dint of being regularly questioned about cases of cancer in his town, Jean-Christophe Destailleur calls for an epidemiological study and the opening of a cancer register. He estimates that “Only a reliable statistical tool can confirm or invalidate our fears” and speaks of about fifty cases “whose nature questions as well as the young age of the sick”. He also asks for breast milk tests “because there has never been any information on it for twenty years” ! In early August, he wrote to the regional health agency (ARS) “in order to establish whether or not our cancer rates are higher than elsewhere”.
Classified as carcinogens, dioxins are persistent organic pollutants in the environment. Produced during combustion processes, they accumulate in the food chain and are on the World Health Organization’s list of chemical compounds of greatest concern. “I therefore did not understand that Halluin was not included in the national study on the incidence of cancers near incineration plants launched in 2005 by the Institute for Health Surveillance”, Doctor Lefebvre is still surprised.
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