The European Union Directive on the incineration of hazardous waste (Ref. 12) states that:
"All incineration plants shall be designed, equipped and operated in such a way that the gas resulting from the incineration of the hazardous waste is raised, after the last injection of combustion air, in a controlled and homogeneous fashion and even under the most unfavourable conditions anticipated, to a temperature of at least 850°C, as achieved at or near the inner wall of the combustion chamber, for at least two seconds in the presence of at least 6% oxygen; if hazardous wastes with a content of more than 1% halogenated organic substances, expressed as chlorine, are incinerated, the temperature has to be raised to at least 1100°C."
Article 7 of the same Directive gives emission limit values for the exhaust gases from incineration plants. The values provided are to prevent emissions into the air giving rise to significant air pollution. In addition to temperature and residence time other operating conditions must also be followed to combust pharmaceuticals safely and efficiently (e.g. treatment and handling of ash).
Studies by Pharmaciens Sans Frontières in 1996 in Mostar have shown that the donated pharmaceuticals, in mixed boxes, had a halogen weight content (i.e. the elements chlorine, fluorine, bromine, iodine, and the isotope astatine), of approximately 0.1% of the total weight including associated packaging. This is well below the 1% threshold given in the EU Directive. The very low halogen content reported for the donated pharmaceuticals indicates that the lower temperature of 850°C could be adopted for these types of pharmaceuticals.