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. Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and TCCD dioxin are listed as human carcinogens in the Fourteenth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program; furan, lead, and PCBs are listed as "reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens."
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)
Burning Residential Waste (California Environmental Protection Agency) (PDF — 77.95 KB)
Does Burning Trash Make It Disappear? (New York State, Department of Health)
Solid Waste Burning (Environmental Protection Agency Region 10) (PDF — 528.57 KB)
The Hidden Hazards of Backyard Burning (Environmental Protection Agency)
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: November 28, 2016