Illegal Burning

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Illegal Burning & Dumping

What’s in the Smoke?

Did you know every time garbage is burned in an uncontrolled fire, it creates air pollution and the left over ash contains toxic residue! Here are some of the air pollutants that would be in the smoke from a burn barrel:

  • Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (dioxins)
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) such as:
    • C6H6 (benzene)
    • C6H5CH3 (toluene) • Chlorinated fluorocarbons photo of a burn barrel
    • C0 (carbon monoxide)
    • CO2 (carbon dioxide)
    • SO2 (sulfur dioxide)
    • CH3 CCl3 (methyl chloroform)
  • Ash or particulate matter
  • Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (furans)
  • Halogenated hydrocarbons like:
    • Tetrachloroethylene
    • Trichloroethylene
    • Methylene chloride
    • 1,1,1-Trichloroethane
    • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Heavy metals such as:
    • Pb (lead)
    • Ba (barium)
    • Cr (chromium)
    • Cd (cadmium)
    • As (arsenic)
    • Hg (mercury)

Burn barrel temperatures rarely exceed 500 degrees Fahrenheit, so combustion is incomplete. Permitted incinerators operate at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit to insure complete combustion and they use efficient filters to reduce harmful emissions.

Pound for pound – garbage burned in a burn barrel gives off twice as many furans, 17 times as much dioxin, and 40 times as much ash as a permitted incinerator. A 1997 EPA study shows that if two-to-forty (depends on how much plastic and paper they are burning) households burn garbage, they produce as much dioxin as a 200 ton/day municipal incinerator.

Past generations burned their garbage, but that practice should be a thing of the past. Garbage back then didn’t contain plastics, foils, batteries, paper (which is bleached with chlorine) and other materials. Even burning paper today can release dixions into the air. Burning household trash, whether in an open pit, burn barrel or a wood stove is unhealthy, unneighborly and unnecessary. It is time to let the burn barrels become obsolete!

Alternatives to Burn Barrels
Instead of Burning in a Burn Barrel, You Should…

Reduce — buy in bulk or larger quantities and demand less packaging on the products you buy.
Reuse — find someone else who can use it, have a yard sale, or donate it to a resale or non-profit organization.
Recycle –- newspaper, office paper, corrugated cardboard, magazines, aluminum, metal, acceptable plastics and any other material your community recycles.
Compost — leaves, plant clippings and food waste.
Chip — brush and clean wood to make mulch or decorative chips, or use it as heating fuel in wood stoves or boilers.
Dispose — of allowable waste materials at a permitted landfill or waste-to-energy facility.

What You Should Never Burn in a Barrel in a Burn Barrel

• Asphalt
• Batteries
• Cardboard
• Construction and Demolition Debris
• Garbage
• Household Hazardous Waste
• Junk Mail
• Leaves
• Paint
• Paper
• Pesticide Containers
• Plastic
• Petroleum Products
• Tires
• Treated Wood
Waste reduction, reuse and recycling tips

When These Materials Are Burned in a Burn Barrel They Give off Toxins Like*:

Asphalt – PAH’s
Batteries – heavy metals like cadmium, lead, mercury
Plastics – dioxins, VOC’s and halogenated hydrocarbons
Treated Wood – Arsenic, plus the ash is very toxic. (This lumber contains Chromated Copper Arsenate)
Paper – dioxins
Pesticide Containers – pesticide residuals, dioxins, VOC’s, halogenated hydrocarbons
Leaves – carbon monoxide and benzo(a)pyrene
Petroleum Products – dioxins, VOC’s and halogenated hydrocarbons
* This is not a comprehensive list of toxins emitted from a burn barrel, it is just a partial listing