• The high level of dioxin pollution in Lausanne is alarming far beyond the region.
  • Cantons like Glarus are planning to take soil samples and examine them for the highly toxic substance.
  • The canton of Zurich began to measure its own soils as soon as the first suspicions were reported in Lausanne.

The alarming dioxin levels from Lausanne have consequences throughout Switzerland: Various cantons want to check their dioxin levels in the soil. “We are planning to examine the soil in the vicinity of our waste incineration plants,” says Tensing Gammeter, who heads the Waste and Raw Materials Section in the canton of St. Gallen.

“Pure precautionary measure” in the canton of Zurich

According to a Tamedia survey, in addition to St. Gallen, Neuchâtel and Glarus now also want to take soil samples. The canton of Zurich has also reacted – albeit in the spring when the first suspicious transaction reports were made from Lausanne. “As a mere precautionary measure, we decided back then that we should get to the bottom of the matter again,” says Wolfgang Bollack from the Zurich building department.


The Josefstrasse waste incineration plant in the city of Zurich was last used for waste incineration at the end of March 2021.


There are a total of six waste incineration plants in the canton of Zurich. This includes the Josefstrasse facility in the city of Zurich, which was discontinued this year. The floors of two buildings were tested in the 1990s and did not contain any alarming dioxin levels. The canton is now examining the soils around those four systems that have not yet been measured.

The all-clear in the canton of Schaffhausen

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The canton of Schaffhausen examined its soils for dioxin two years ago. “The measured values ​​are low,” says Katharina Herkommer, head of the environment department in the intercantonal laboratory. “No test values ​​were exceeded and there is also no risk to the users of the analyzed samples.” One of the reasons for this is that the canton of Schaffhausen shut down its last waste incineration plant back in the 1970s.

“We are not assuming anything worrying”

Wolfgang Bollack is confident that the situation in the canton of Zurich differs from that in Lausanne: “We do not assume that you will find anything worrying.” The reason: The dioxin residues in Lausanne date back to before 1985. Since then, better filters have been installed in all systems in Switzerland. The chemist and dioxin specialist Markus Zennegg therefore also expects the new measurements in Zurich to confirm those of the systems that have already been tested.

“I assume that the situation has not changed,” says Zennegg when asked by Radio SRF. The main emissions from such plants were created in the 1960s to the beginning of the 1990s. “After that, they fell sharply due to the improved exhaust gas cleaning systems.” So the omens for the canton of Zurich are good. However, there will only be certainty when the measurements are completed at the beginning of next year.

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