Observe ban on open burning, public reminded

QUEZON CITY--As the yearly Fire Prevention Month is observed this March, the EcoWaste Coalition enjoined the public not to burn household garbage, as well as garden or farm waste, during the dry and hot weather.

The zero waste advocacy group said that burning discards in the open can cause fire and pollution that can endanger people’s health and lives.

“Open burning, especially during the dry and hot season, can cause destructive fires in our communities, while permanently destroying resources that can be reused, recycled or composted and generating toxic smoke and ash,” said Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Open burning can cause particulate matter pollution, as well as dioxin pollution, that can trigger illness, especially among young children, the elderly and people with chemical sensitivities. Pollutants from open burning can also affect unborn fetuses,” she said.

“Because of its bad effects on health and the environment, national environmental laws and related local ordinances have rightly prohibited the open burning of garbage,” she said.

Tolentino cited Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act, as two major environmental laws banning and penalizing open burning.

Section 48 of RA 9003, in particular, lists “the open burning of solid waste” as one of the prohibited acts punishable with a fine of P300 to P1,000 or imprisonment for one to 15 days, or both.

To draw attention to this public health and environmental menace, the EcoWaste Coalition released a new poster that says “Stop Burning Garbage,” with a clear-cut reminder that “burning garbage produces toxic pollutants that can harm public health and the environment.”

Among these toxic contaminants resulting from open burning activities, especially when materials containing chlorine are burned, are byproduct dioxins and furans that are targeted for global reduction, if not elimination, under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Other open burning pollutants capable of contaminating the air and even our food sources include heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and fine particles or particulate matter.

These pollutants are known to cause a variety of health problems such as headaches, eye, throat and skin irritation, impaired respiratory functions, aggravated asthma and chronic bronchitis, heart attacks and even cancers, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

The group encouraged all waste generators and regulators to work for the "adoption of the best practice in ecological waste management excluding incineration" in keeping with the declared policies of R.A. 9003.