Why is burning trash a concern?
Burning trash in the open, in backyards, or in an open metal container called a "burn barrel" produces many toxic chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment. These chemicals include carbon monoxide, dioxins, lead, mercury, particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and ash. Any toxic chemicals and hazardous materials that can burn might be present in burning trash.
The ash from burning trash can be hazardous to human health. It can contain chemicals and heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, dioxins, furans, lead, mercury, and PCBs. These chemicals can seep from the ash into surface water, groundwater, and food grown in ash-contaminated soil.
Burning trash in burn barrels emits much more pollution than if the same amount of trash was burned in an industrial incinerator. Burning household trash is one of the largest known sources of dioxins in the country. Trash burning, including burning of autumn leaves, is banned or heavily regulated in many parts of the United States.
This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Air Defenders (Wisconsin Environmental Health Association)
Backyard Burning (Environmental Protection Agency)
Backyard Burning - Human Health (Environmental Protection Agency)
The Hidden Hazards of Backyard Burning (Environmental Protection Agency) (PDF — 242 KB)
Chemicals in Burning Trash
Are these chemicals in MY community?
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Last Updated: July 2, 2014