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Landfill gas: how it forms and why it can be dangerous

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England’s Environment Agency isn’t doing enough to protect the public from landfill gas, according to a recent high-court ruling. A judge said that five-year old Matthew Richards’ respiratory health problems were being made worse by fumes from nearby Walleys Quarry landfill site in Silverdale, Staffordshire. The judgement requires a particular landfill gas – hydrogen sulphide – to be reduced to one part per billion, less than an eighth of current levels in the area, by January 2022.

The ruling could mean that local authorities and government bodies tasked with maintaining environmental standards do more to support the rights of individuals when dealing with a community problem like air pollution.

So what about if you live within walking distance of a landfill site – should you be worried?

Fumes from landfill sites tend to be a mixture of hundreds of different gases. These are formed by the decomposition of rotting food and other biological waste by bacteria; reactions between chemicals found in landfills, especially industrial wastes; and certain chemicals such as ammonia transforming from liquids and solids into vapour.

Methane is the biggest component of landfill gas – between 45% and 60% – followed by carbon dioxide (40%-60%). Trace amounts of other gases, such as benzene, toluene,........

© The Conversation

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