EDITORIAL - Stop the indiscriminate burning


Persons truly need to be educated on the matter of indiscriminate burning, which is an age old practice, but one that needs to be stamped out in a modern society like Barbados due its ramifications.
Given the fact that people are placing just about anything into their bonfires – from plastics, tyres,   aerosol cans, to tree trimmings and branches – it is clear that backyard burning can be detrimental to nearby residents, as the smoke and the chemicals it contains linger in homes and in the atmosphere.
The act of indiscriminate burning produces dioxins, which are potent toxicants with the potential to produce a broad spectrum of adverse effects in humans. It also produces particle pollution, which sees microscopic particles released by open burning, that are small enough to get into the lungs and can cause numerous health problems. Also, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a problematic group of chemicals commonly found in particulate matter, or smoke and soot, released from backyard burning. Some PAHs are cancer-causing.
There is also the issue of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by open burning. Many VOCs are harmful to humans. They also contribute to ground-level ozone pollution, also known as smog, which can worsen respiratory, heart, and other existing health problems. Inhaling certain VOCs can lead to eye, nose, and throat irritation; headache; loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Then there is carbon monoxide, another major pollutant generated which can cause neurological symptoms including headache, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Finally, there is the issue of ash residue, which can contain toxic metals such as 
mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic.
Now if you do some research, you will find that many countries have what is known as an Ordinance in place regulating outdoor or open burning. The Ordinance also lists a range of materials which one must not burn in the open. It is intended to generally safeguard the health, comfort, living conditions and safety and welfare of citizens. In many cases, the police have power to enforce the provision of the Ordinance and penalties are doubled for second and subsequent offences.
Now, whilst burning rubbish that produces unpleasant smells, fumes or smoke should be a matter for the local Environmental Protection Department (EPD), it must be said that where a neighbour is not adhering to calls for mediation or not responding to informal approaches, the law should be used for protection. Hence, we should have some law or similar ordinance issued here or even a ban.
We all want better relations with our neighbours, but some neighbours are really not open to reason. Sure, many of them have heard that indiscriminate burning causes a range of health and environmental difficulties, that it not only adds to air pollution, but causes problems for asthmatics and those with other respiratory and bronchial problems, children included, since the materials burnt in the rubbish pile can produce a range of toxic or noxious compounds. Most have been told that it prevents others in the community from enjoying their surroundings, opening windows, and washing and hanging out clothing. Yet many Barbadians persist in engaging in this dastardly practice. So if we try the education method and that does not work, then if we have to prosecute the offenders for them to get the message then, by all means, we should. 

Barbados Advocate

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