Backyard or community trash burning has become a common method to dispose of garbage.
· Health concerns from trash burning
· Better trash disposal options available to you
Most people who burn their waste do not realize how harmful this practice is to their health and to the environment. Current research indicates that backyard burning is far more harmful to our health than previously thought.
A study measured the types and amounts of many chemicals in the smoke from burn barrels. For some of those chemicals, burning about 10 pounds a day of trash in a household burn barrel may produce as much air pollution as a modern, well-controlled incinerator burning 400,000 pounds a day of trash!
Backyard burning of trash in a barrel, pile or illegal dump site releases smoke into the air. The content of the smoke depends on the trash that went into the fire, the temperature of the fire and the available oxygen.
Trash fires in burn barrels can smolder and as a result produce greater amounts of harmful chemicals in the smoke. Harmful chemicals can also be present in the ash.
Trash containing plastics, polystyrene (such as foam cups), CCA pressure-treated wood and bleached or colored papers can produce harmful chemicals when burned. For example, when CCA pressure-treated wood (which contains arsenic) is burned, arsenic can be released in the smoke or remain in the ash.
Burning rubbish can lead to the following
- it adds to air pollution
- burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp and shouldering
- burning plastic, rubber or painted material not only creates an unpleasant smell but also produces a range of poisonous compounds
- it will also add to the general background level of air pollution
- it causes detrimental health effects
- smoke may cause problems for asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart conditions and children
- it causes annoyance to neighbours
- the smoke, soot, and smells from fires are the subject of many complaints to
- smoke prevents your neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out, and reduces visibility in the neighbourhood and roads
- it is a potential safety risk
- fire can spread to fences or buildings and cans are a hazard when rubbish is burned
- piles of garden waste are often used as a refuge by animals, so look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets
Who Is At Risk?
Smoke from any fire can affect your health, your family's health and your neighbor's health. The smoke from backyard burning is released close to the ground where people can easily breathe it. The smoke from the fire can deposit chemicals on garden vegetables and garden soil. People can be exposed to those chemicals by eating fruits and vegetables grown near the trash-fire or in garden soil tilled with the ashes. Young children may be at greater risk than adults because of their playing behaviors, their small size and their developing bodies.
The chances of developing health effects from contact (exposure) with smoke from burn barrel fires depends on how much smoke a person contacts, how a person is exposed (e.g., breathing the smoke or eating vegetables affected by the smoke) and how long and often the person is exposed. Some people may be more or less sensitive than others to chemicals in smoke. People exposed to smoke could experience burning eyes and nose, coughing, nausea, headaches, or dizziness. Some people find the odors produced by burn barrels disagreeable, and they may experience discomfort, headaches, and nausea. Smoke can trigger asthma attacks. People with heart and lung conditions are at greater risk for health effects. Repeated exposures to pollutants in burn barrel smoke may occur when people burn trash on a regular basis, and this may increase the risk of chronic health problems. Also, unattended burn barrels or backyard burning can cause accidental fires.
Smoke from burning trash in a barrel contains particulate matter, carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, styrene, formaldehyde, arsenic, lead, chromium, benzo(a)pyrene, dioxins, furans and PCBs. Some of these chemicals are found in smoke from any fire. Although substances such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde can cause immediate health effects with enough exposure, some chemicals such as dioxin can build up in foods and in your body. Some of these chemicals can remain in the environment for a long time and can remain on your property (for example, soil outside and dust inside your home).
How Can Burning Trash Get Chemicals Into Your Body?
- Breathing the smoke.
- Eating food contaminated by smoke and ash.
- Playing in areas of contaminated soil or dust.
How Can Chemicals From Burning Trash Get Into Your Food?
- Smoke and ash can settle on fruits and vegetables.
- If ash is mixed into the garden soil, chemicals can be taken up by crops.
- Chemicals can enter milk, eggs or meat if farm animals eat contaminated feed or soil.
Break The Habit! And Stop Backyard and Community Burning.
Here are some simple tips to avoid the need to burn your trash:
Avoid waste. Buy fewer items and select products with the least packaging.
Buy products that can be re-used and/or come in containers that can be re-filled.
Learn about your community's recycling programs. Dispose of your recyclables accordingly and urge others to do the same. RAZ – Recycling Association of Zimbabwe email@example.com
Compost plant-based kitchen and yard waste – Step by Step instructions available
Weekly Municipal Refuge Collection, or contact City of Harare for additional removal of waste. Director of Waste Management Mr Chibanda email WMANAGEMENT4@GMAIL.COM firstname.lastname@example.org - Landline no. 770362 or 780127
Be considerate of your neighbors!
For your health, the health of your family and your neighbors and your community's environment, you are urged to Stop Backyard Burning.
Burning Trash Is Not Only a Bad Idea: It is Against the Law.
DR MUNGOFA MRS SHOKO
Director of Health Services Environment Management Agency
Cellphone No. 0712 860 734 Cellphone No. 0772 951 287 / 0712 236 835
Landline: 753330 / 772926 Landline: (04) 793125 / 705662