EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) jointly push for the stringent implementation of the open burning ban under Republic Act 9003 and Republic 8749 as the whole nation observes the “Fire Prevention Month” this March.
“With public support, the LGUs can extinguish these often-ignored ‘small’ but similarly detrimental fires from the open burning of waste materials,” the groups said.
Both R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act, prohibit open burning of waste materials to address the decline of environmental quality, which directly impacts public health.
“Despite clear and explicit proscriptions under our foremost environmental laws, we still find open burning practised with impunity in both rural and urban areas,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
“We see valuable resources, such as materials that can be re-used, recycled or composted, transformed into noxious fumes and ashes in disposal sites, farms, street corners, backyards and even in parks,” he lamented.
On top of being wasteful, open burning produces a cocktail of health-damaging chemicals depending on what is burned.
“Unknown to many, open burning is a menacing ‘toxic monster,’ unleashing minuscule contaminants that endanger community health, especially the health of young children, the elderly and others with sensitivity to chemicals,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator, GAIA.
Contaminants from open burning can include tiny airborne particulates, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, persistent organic pollutants like dioxins and furans, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, halogenated carbons, and volatile organic compounds.
One family of chemicals of interest to the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA are dioxins, the “most toxic manmade chemical known,” that are formed and released when waste containing chlorine, such as chlorinated plastic packaging materials, is burned.
In a factsheet co-authored by the EcoWaste Coalition with GAIA, the groups listed several reproductive, developmental and other serious health effects such as cancers that are associated with dioxin and furan exposure.
Among these effects are reduced sperm counts, reduced size of genitals, decreased fertility, birth defects, hormone disruption, immune system disruption, increased susceptibility to bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases, several types of cancer and damage to the liver and other vital organs.
To prevent exposure to dioxins and furans, both groups urged the public to avoid burning their discards and instead adopt the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), avoid products made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, and regulate consumption of meat and dairy products since dioxins dissolve and accumulate in fatty tissues.
The groups also urged the public to be aware of other potential sources of dioxins and furans in their communities, such as waste incinerators, cement kilns firing hazardous waste and industrial processes using elemental chlorine, and seek preventive measures to cut emissions.
The groups further reiterated that R.A. 9003 and R.A. 8749 provide clear, adequate and strong basis for heightened LGU action against open burning.
R.A. 9003 bans the open burning of solid waste as in the case of traditional “siga” and penalizes violators with a fine ranging from P300 to P1,000, or a one to 15-day imprisonment, or both.
R.A. 8749 states that “no person, establishment, firm, company, government or private entity or organizations shall be allowed to burn or cause open burning of waste materials in their premises, area of jurisdiction, including recognized or unrecognized dumpsites in any quality or quantity.”
The “waste materials” referred to under R.A. 8749 cover “plastic, polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, paints, ink, wastes containing heavy metals, organic chemicals, petroleum related compound, industrial wastes, ozone depleting substances and other similar toxic and hazardous substances.”
Chapter VI, Section 48, R.A. 9003 re prohibiton, fine and penalty against open burning: