Buying a house near a landfill site – is it worth it?!

  • Date: May 14, 2022

Buying a house is likely to be the biggest expense of your life. It is all about compromises – unless you have an unlimited budget, it is unlikely that a property will tick every box. But what if you find your dream house, but it is sitting nearby a landfill site? Would it be worth it – for your health and the long-term value of the property? Health can be affected in terms of respiratory illness, headaches and dizziness. Mental health can also be adversely affected, with depression and anxiety common features. Property is a bit more variable – it depends largely on distance from the site and how much waste the site receives. Lets take a closer look.

Health effects of landfills

Respiratory illness

A study in the Lazio region of Italy between 1996 and 2008 is particularly well-known in this field. A large pool of 242,409 participants, living close to nine different landfill sites, showed a correlation between landfill air pollutants and lung cancer deaths. There was also a link with hospitalizations and deaths from respiratory illness in general.  

Other health complaints

As well as respiratory illnesses, some residents living near landfills have reported having frequent headaches, nausea and dizziness due to the constant stench. Residents close to one landfill site with a worsening smell in Newcastle-under-Lyme, UK, have demonstrated these symptoms. Some locals have even started to tape up their windows and doors to avoid the worsening smell of hydrogen sulfide. Not ideal living arrangements. 

However, it should be noted that at this particular site – Walleys Quarry – the hydrogen sulfide level has, at certain times, been above the levels recommended by WHO. Similar symptoms may not be seen near landfills that stick within the recommended guidelines.

Psychological wellbeing

People who live near industrial activity, in general, have been found to have poorer mental health. Living close to landfill sites is no different. The constant stench can lead to low mood and depression. Anxiety can also feature. Residents may have worries that their health, both long term and short term, will be affected by living there.

This has also been noted in the Newcastle-under-Lyme site where a dedicated counsellor is being appointed to support the community. A stronger smell reported from the site at night has led to lack of sleep, exacerbating the mental health problems.  

Increased risk of explosions

Landfill gas (LFG) is formed when the materials in the landfill break down. Approximately half of the LFG is made up of methane gas (the main component of natural gas), whilst the other half if made from carbon dioxide. LFG also contains a small portion of non-methane organic compounds.

Methane is a highly flammable gas – putting locals at risk of gas explosions. In the 1980’s the UK and USA saw a host of landfill-related explosions with lives lost and property damaged. 

Property prices near landfill sites

As a buyer, your house of interest is likely to be cheaper if is close to a landfill site – also, less people may be interested in buying it, so you will have less competition in the buying process. So, you may win in this part of the transaction!

However, it is not completely straightforward – different factors are at play here.  A lot depends on the distance from the landfill site and how busy the site is.

Montana State University researchers found that residential property adjacent to landfills that get large amounts of waste – more than 500 tons a day – are decreased in value by 13.7%. The further away, the less impact these busy landfills have on property value. Low-volume sites, on the other hand, only decrease residential property value by 2.7%. Again, this impact decreases on distance from the site.  Another interesting finding was that approximately a quarter of low-volume landfill sites do not even affect residential values at all!

The bottom line

The smell is not the only negative thing about living near a landfill site. Studies have shown that there is an increased chance of respiratory illness as well as reports of headaches, nausea and dizziness. Living in such close proximity to a constant stench can also cause depression and low mood.

However, these must be treated with caution. Different countries have different regulations when it comes to dealing with trash. For example, the study that showed an increased instance of lung cancer was conducted in Italy which will have different domestic regulations than, say, the UK or USA.  The health risks are largely dependent on where the landfill site is based.

The financial implications of buying property near a landfill site should also not be overlooked – although larger landfill facilities can have an influence on property valuations, lower-volume landfill sites can have little impact or none at all.