Environmental Health Action Guide - compiled and maintained by the Sustainable Cleveland Partnership and NeighborhoodLink





Arthur moved recently to live a few blocks from Metro Hospital, one of the state's most prestigious health care institutions. His apartment is also near the hospital's solid waste (garbage), infectious medical waste, and radioactive waste incinerators.

Arthur read last month in the local newspaper that solid and medical waste incinerators may be sources of dioxin and mercury. Arthur wonders if these substances cause health and environmental problems. He also wonders where he can get more information on medical waste incinerators.



As more and more landfills across the country fill-up, many cities have turned to waste incineration, or trash burning, to dispose of the millions of tons of trash that are generated in this country each year. But many people believe that waste incinerators can cause health and environmental problems. Therefore, communities have the right to be informed and make informed decisions.  

There are generally two types of waste incinerators: municipal solid waste and medical waste incinerators.




Medical Waste Incinerators and Toxic Pollution:

Since much of the waste that hospitals produce, including hypodermic needles, body parts and fluids, diapers, laboratory cultures, etc., is infectious and potentially dangerous, many hospitals feel it is safer to burn this waste, rendering it harmless, rather than to bury it in landfills. When burned, hospital waste and medical/infectious waste emit various air pollutants, including hydrochloric acid, dioxin/furan, and toxic metals (lead, cadmium, and mercury).*

* from US EPA Region 5's Medical Waste Incinerator Program Homepage.

 In Ohio:

* Greater Cleveland Coalition for a Clean Environment


* Risk Characterization of Dioxin and Related Compounds, USEPA May 2, 1994


 * Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry report on Mercury, December 1997.


Alternatives to Incineration:

Hospitals don’t need to burn as much waste as they often do. They can take steps to reduce the need to burn waste and expose our communities to toxic air pollution. These steps include:



Contact Health Care Without Harm at 703/237-8389 for information on alternatives to waste incineration.





Contact the Greater Cleveland Coalition for a Clean Environment at 216/391-8112, 721-6490, or 752-4976, or the Earth Day Coalition at 216/281-6468 for information on medical waste incinerator issues.



Contact Ohio EPA’s Division of Solid and Infectious Waste Management at 330/963-1200 for information on the four medical waste incinerators in Cuyahoga County.

Contact Scott Hamilton, US EPA Region 5’s Medical Waste Incinerator Program, at 800/621-8431 for information on Federal medical-waste incinerator programs.



Access "US EPA’s Mercury Report to Congress" for information on the health and environmental impacts of mercury contamination by calling the National Center for Environmental Publications at 800/490-9198.

Contact Health Care Without Harm at 703/237-8389 for information on national efforts to fight medical waste incinerators and the environmental impacts of these incinerators.

Full mailing addresses and phone numbers of organizations listed on this factsheet are available in this Guide's Directory of Organizations.




Contact Hospitals In Your Community: Contact hospitals in your community by phone or mail (see list below) and ask them to stop burning waste. Ask them to instead practice alternatives to waste incineration, including waste reduction and recycling, autoclaving, and using nontoxic equipment alternatives.

Four hospitals in NE Ohio burn medical waste in on-site medical waste incinerators:


Cleveland Clinic Foundation

9500 Euclid Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44195



Columbia St. Luke Medical Center

11311 Shaker Boulevard

Cleveland, OH 44104



Columbia St. Vincent Charity Hospital

2351 E. 22nd Street

Cleveland, OH 44115



Parma Community General Hospital

7007 Powers Boulevard

Parma, OH 44129



Make a Complaint: To file a complaint about a waste incinerator in your community or to find out about a waste incinerator’s permit status, contact the City of Cleveland’s Division of Air Pollution Control at 216/664-2300.


Get Involved: Contact the Greater Cleveland Coalition for a Clean Environment, a local community group working on medical waste incinerator issues in Cleveland. For more information, call them at 216/391-8112, 721-6490, or 752-4976.


Contact Local Elected Officials: Write or call asking them to support policies that strengthen air pollution standards on medical waste incinerators.



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