EcoWaste Coalition Urges LGUs to Enforce the Ban against Open Burning, a “Silent Killer”

As the Bureau of Fire Protection gears up for the annual “Fire Prevention Month,” an environmental watchdog urged local government units (LGUs) and the public to uphold and enforce the national ban against the open burning of trash.

In a statement, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated the hazards of open burning, a clear environmental offense under R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act, and R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which can also set off accidental fires.

“Despite the explicit prohibition by two of the nation’s foremost environmental legislation, this ‘silent killer’ continues to haunt our communities in the cities and in the countryside. We therefore appeal to all LGUs to enforce the ban,” observed Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

LGUs’ heightened action against open burning will support the ongoing Integrated Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Project being implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau, with support from the Global Environment Facility through the World Bank, that seeks to reduce dangerous emissions from the burning of trash, the group said.

“Open burning produces loads of dangerous byproduct pollutants that are linked to a long list of health issues from headaches, eye, throat and skin irritation, asthma and heart attacks to cancers,” she warned.

Some of these byproduct pollutants belong to a family of extremely harmful chemicals known as POPS, including cancer-causing dioxins and furans resulting from the burning of chlorinated materials.  Dioxins and furans are known to be toxic at extremely low doses.

Apart from POPs, open burning generates other nasty contaminants, including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, heavy
metals like cadmium, lead and mercury, and particulate matter or PM.

“Microscopic PM, in particular, can be absorbed deep into the lungs, causing coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath and exacerbating respiratory and heart diseases,” Vergara said.

“Open burning does not only pollute our bodies, but also our food sources,” she pointed out.

Byproduct pollutants, Vergara said, are deposited on leafy plants eaten by farm animals and ingested by fish, contaminating the food chain.

For example, dioxins and furans are released into the environment, accumulate in the food chain, particularly in the fatty tissue of animals and are passed to humans through the consumption of dairy products, eggs, meat and fish, she explained.

Vergara likewise emphasized that open burning terminally razes resources that could have been repaired, reused, recycled or composted. Fallen leaves and yard trimmings, for instance, could be
turned into compost to nourish depleted soils.

To avoid health-damaging pollution and fires from the open burning of trash and contribute to resource conservation, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the public to consume responsibly, waste less and recycle more.

To prevent and reduce the generation of trash, the group invited the public to observe the following eco-reminders:

1.) Reduce garbage to the minimum and avoid noxious odors and pest problems by segregating discards at the point of generation.

2.) Reuse and recycle non-biodegradable discards such as papers, bottles and cans as many times as you can.

3.) Turn your biodegradable discards such as kitchen and garden trimmings into compost that can enhance soil fertility and health.

4.) Use second-hand, repaired and recycled products whenever available.

5.) Check for things that can be repaired or reused before deciding to purchase new ones.

6.) Bring bayong or other reusable carry bags when shopping; refuse plastic bags.

7.) Reduce unnecessary packaging by buying in bulk or choosing items with the least packaging.

8.) Avoid throw-away items. Choose products that can be washed, stored and used again.

9.) Repair rather than throw or replace broken things.

10.) Give away unwanted stuff to neighbors or charities instead of putting them into the waste bins.