Disposal of household garbage by burning continues to be common practice in rural communities. This practice goes by many names, including backyard burning, burn barrels, and household garbage burning. But whatever name is used, the reality is that this practice is harmful to humans and our environment.
Smoke from burning waste contains many pollutants that can impact the health of people exposed to it, including hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, lead, mercury, dioxin and many others. These pollutants may damage the lungs, nervous system, kidneys and liver. Even healthy people may experience symptoms of burning eyes, headaches, nausea, fatigue or dizziness. Toxic chemicals from trash burning deposit into aquatic or terrestrial environment and contribute to pollution in the region's rivers and lakes.
Backyard burning also triggers numerous wildfires and can be nuisance to neighbors. This prevalence of garbage burning may affect states' and municipalities' ability to meet air quality standards.
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If you would like more information, please contact Erin Newman of U.S. EPA Region 5 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about backyard burning in the Great Lakes Region is available online at http://www.openburning.org.
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Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
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University of Illinois
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