Last week we celebrated Fire Prevention Week under the theme: “Save lives, protect property, strive towards a greener environment”. This theme is very timely since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been receiving numerous complaints related to emission from open burning of garbage. This week we will examine the implications of burning and how you can curb that habit.
You don’t have to be a scientist to observe that burning of waste is an environmentally poor waste management option. It is dangerous to public health and the environment.
Waste commonly burned at or nearby homes and business premises, may include paper, cardboard, textiles, plastics, household and industrial chemicals, food, containers, packaging materials, cans and bottles and yard clippings.
Burning such waste can result in the release of highly toxic pollutants into your home or environment. Pollutants include particulate matter, nitric oxides, dioxins and many other dangerous chemicals. Some particulate emissions that are commonly found in smoke are small enough to enter the respiratory system and can have immediate and long-term health effects such as asthma, emphysema and other respiratory illnesses; other effects of pollutants include nervous system, kidney, or liver damage, and reproductive or developmental disorders.
The danger of open fires
* Open fires are especially dangerous near populated areas, highways, airports, healthcare facilities and other smoke-sensitive areas. Children, older people and persons with heart problems and respiratory ailments like asthma are sensitive to these pollutants.
* Burning also threatens natural resources such as soil, water, air, wildlife, and natural habitats and can destroy soil nutrients and reduce fertility. Water run-off after burning may carry contaminants into nearby drains, trenches, or streams, reducing water quality.
* Fires also contribute to climate change when carbon dioxide is released as vegetation burns.
To dispose of waste by incineration requires an Environmental Permit. The Environmental Protection Agency encourages citizens to desist from the unauthorised burning of waste. Contact your local authority about safe and proper waste disposal methods. Be vigilant and exercise caution when around open fires.
If there are no garbage collection systems in your area, start with what you can do:
o Refuse excess packages which means reduction of waste,
o Reduce the waste you produce by planning well and shopping smart,
o Reuse items as far as possible to prolong its shelf life,
o Recycle organic waste by composting them, and
o Bury the waste which are not biodegradable.
The EPA has the Air Quality Regulations which seeks to control the amount of air pollutants emitted into the atmosphere. Protect yourself and those around you; dispose of your waste properly.
You can share your ideas and questions by sending letters to: “Our Earth, Our Environment”, C/O ECEA Programme, Environmental Protection Agency, Ganges Street, Sophia, GEORGETOWN, or email us at: [email protected] or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.