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Public Health Wales reiterates health advice following assessment of air quality data

Published: 18 June 2024

Public Health Wales is reiterating its advice to residents in the area around the Withyhedge landfill site, following our health risk assessment of air quality data collected between 1 March and 3 April 2024.

Public Health Wales received the final data on 23 May 2024 to begin our risk assessment.  The data suggests that, at times during March and April 2024*, levels of hydrogen sulphide** in the air around the site have been above the World Health Organization (WHO) odour annoyance guideline.

Public Health Wales advice therefore remains that residents should keep doors and windows closed when the smells are present, and to seek medical advice if they feel unwell.

When people are exposed to odours at levels above the WHO guideline value, they may experience effects such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, irritated throat, cough or wheeze, sleep problems and stress.

These are common reactions to nasty smells, and these effects should usually pass once the odour has gone.  The long-term (lifetime) health risk is low. 
Public health advice to those exposed to the odours remains unchanged.

  • Closing windows and doors when nasty smells occur, or when the wind is blowing from the landfill towards your home, can help to stop smells coming inside.
  • Remember not to block windows or vents completely.  This is because they provide air to vent cookers or heaters, and can help to control damp. 
  • Once an outdoor smell has passed, opening windows and doors will help get rid of any smells that remain.

Public Health Wales maintains that reducing the cause or source of offsite odours from the landfill site must be a priority to reduce exposure and any potential health effects on the local community.

We note that work to cap the site has now been completed. Public Health Wales welcomes plans to position static air monitoring around the site going forward to help capture more detailed data.

Dr Sarah Jones, Consultant in Environmental Public Health for Public Health Wales said:

“We recognise the real stress and anxiety that local people are under as a result of odours around the Withyhedge landfill site.  Like local residents, we are very eager to see a rapid resolution to this issue.

“The health risk assessment will continue to be reviewed and updated as more monitoring data is made available to us.”

Chair of the Air Quality Group for the Multi-Agency Incident Management team Gaynor Toft said:

“We note the risk assessment from Public Health Wales and continue to refine and develop the air quality monitoring programme in the vicinity of the landfill site. Suitable static monitoring locations are being identified for the siting of equipment.

“We continue to work in collaboration as the Air Quality Group to ensure that robust data is collated to inform future Public Health Wales assessments.”

Huwel Manley of Natural Resources Wales said:

“We acknowledge the report and will continue to use our regulatory powers to drive improvements on site to address causes of odour affecting the community.”