Objectives: to examine if emissions from the Vergueiro solid waste incinerator are associated with an increased risk of cancer in the population in its vicinity.
Methods: the area under influence of this incinerator was delimited by a 7 km radius from its geocoded centroid. Deaths of city residents in administrative districts inside this area due to cancer of lung, liver, larynx, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in adults, leukemia, and all sites combined in children, in the 1998 to 2002 period, were selected and geocoded. The studied area was divided into 7 concentric rings delimited by a radius of 1 to 7 km from the incinerator. The analysis of the relationship between residential proximity to the incinerator and mortality due to cancer was based on the comparison of observed and expected cases, using the Stone test for decline in risk with distance from the incinerator.
Results: the area studied comprised 1,599,532 inhabitants, of which 92,894 were children less than 5 years old and 634,993 were adults over 40 years old. No spatial gradient in risk was observed for any outcome in relation to distance from the incinerator.
Conclusion: although no excess risk for the selected cancers were observed, emissions of incinerators still operating and their possible health effects should be monitored. The study of the spatial distribution of health events in areas around point sources of air pollution can become a methodological option for surveillance activities.