Leaf burning: just the facts please!

A few short months ago, Galesburg successfully passed a ban on all open burning. These individuals worked tirelessly to achieve their goal and all of Galesburg has benefitted with cleaner air. We owe them! Now the burning ban is, once again, on the chopping block and possibly to be rescinded. Do you really want to see this happen?

Okay, let's stick to the facts. The two most stated reasons by individuals who wish to continue leaf burning are they like the smell of burning leaves and because it's tradition. Do you really want to step backwards over a tradition that needs to die a peaceful death? Or do you really want to choke your way to an early grave because of the increased incidence of lung disease directly related to open burning? Oh please!

Just the facts please:

Smoke from burning leaves is not only unhealthy but can be deadly for some. According to the U.S. Public Health Services, there is strong evidence that air pollution is associated with chronic lung diseases, including asthma, emphysema, cancer, chronic sinus problems and bronchitis. The leaf smoke also directly effects those suffering with various kinds of heart conditions. The National Center for Health Statistics shows Knox County has a higher prevalence of conditions on the average than the U.S. for chronic sinus or hay fever, heart disease, asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and cancer. Welcome to Knox County?

Leaf fires can cause street damage. Leaf fires damage streets. Fires evaporate the solvents in asphalt, weakening and disfiguring the surface. If there is moisture in concrete streets and curbing the steam resulting from a fire can cause cracking. Furthermore, ashes washed into the sewers cause clogging. Aren't we having enough trouble there already?

As leaf fires smolder, emissions Increase! While you are enjoying the smell of burning leaves, you are also inhaling carbon monoxide, a variety of hydrocarbons and other poisonous gases that directly threaten pulmonary functions. You also just inhaled up to 27 percent of all known carcinogens; cigarettes contain only six. These facts courtesy of the Illinois Institute of Natural Resources, Advisory Report On The Potential Health Effects of Leaf Burning.

Cost to residents in money, time and inconvenience? Doesn't it take the same amount of time to rake all those leaves into a pile for burning? And what about the time it takes to tend that fire? And what of the health cost to others who are forced to breathe this polluted air for days or at night? What if that ill person is your loved one, would you feel differently?

What would it cost in increased calls by the fire department if we go back to open burning? According to local fire officials, there were 186 calls related to open burning in 1993. Can we afford that?

When you remove issues of emotion tied to old tradition, the answers become clear. A retort is welcomed but stick to the facts.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online September 8, 1999

Back to The Zephyr