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High-temperature, controlled incineration and thermal treatment of contaminated soils, sediments, and wastes at Superfund sites are often preferred methods of remediation of contaminated sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 and related legislation. Although these methods may be executed safely, formation of toxic combustion or reaction by-products is still a cause of concern. Emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); chlorinated hydrocarbons (CHCs), including polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans; and toxic metals (e.g., chromium VI) have historically been the focus of combustion and health effects research. However, fine particulate matter (PM) and ultrafine PM, which have been documented to be related to cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, and cancer, have more recently become the focus of research. Fine PM and ultrafine PM are effective delivery agents for PAHs, CHCs, and toxic metals. In addition, it has recently been realized that brominated hydrocarbons (including brominated/chlorinated dioxins), redox-active metals, and redox-active persistent free radicals are also associated with PM emissions from combustion and thermal processes. In this article, we discuss the origin of each of these classes of pollutants, the nature of their association with combustion-generated PM, and the mechanisms of their known and potential health impacts.

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Environmental Health Perspectives

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