In the Philippines, it is common to see clouds of smoke rising in fields due to leaves being burned. This is an abhorrent practice that has been causing thousands of Filipinos to suffer from lung diseases like asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. The government is losing millions of pesos in hospitalization expenses and lost productivity due to people getting sick from the smoke.

This rampant burning of leaves and garbage in the provinces has to be stopped. The law states that burning of leaves and wastes is harmful and illegal. However, some politicians are slow to enforce the law, leading to more people getting seriously ill.

The smoke from leaf fires is made up of many tiny particles that can penetrate deep into our lungs and cause the most health damage. People living near the area can develop coughing, wheezing, chest pain, and difficulty of breathing. The symptoms may appear a few days after exposure.

Leaf smoke effects

Leaf smoke contains many dangerous chemicals like carbon monoxide and benzopyrene. Carbon monoxide binds with the hemoglobin in our red blood cells, and reduces the amount of oxygen in our blood. When exposed to large amounts of smoke, a person can collapse and die in a short span of time.

Patients with asthma, emphysema, lung disease, and heart disease are most susceptible to the ill effects of leaf smoke. Some reports find an association between smoke inhalation and cancer of the lungs, nose, and throat.

Small children and older adults are very susceptible to the smoke irritants. From eye problems and tearing of the eyes, leaf smoke, in excess, may even lead to a person’s death.

Air pollution effects

Worldwide, it is estimated that three billion metric tons of biomass — such as wood, leaves, trees, grass, and trash — are being burned. This is the largest source of air pollution in many rural areas, especially in the developing world.

People burn leaves and wood to dispose of leaves and use wood as fuel for cooking. Biomass burning is estimated to produce 40 percent of the carbon dioxide, 32 percent of the carbon monoxide, and 50 percent of the cancer-causing poly-aromatic hydrocarbons.

In some provinces, incessant burning of leaves has caused a fog-like haze to envelop the surroundings. This contributes to air pollution, which in turn may lead to global warming.

In the country, we have more advocates for anti-smoking as compared to advocates against leaf and waste burning. This is quite ironic since the smoke from leaf burning is worse than 20 people smoking cigarettes in the open air. Leaf burning can suddenly turn a clear day into a hazy fog. Moreover, there are documented episodes of leaf burning that has led to forest fires.

Burning of leaves and waste materials is prohibited under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act  (Section 48, paragraph 3). People found to violate this law will be penalized with imprisonment of one to 15 days and a corresponding fine of P300 to P1,000.

The law states that burning leaves and wastes is harmful to one’s health. Leaf and waste burning releases several poisons in the environment including:

• Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Too much carbon dioxide can lead to global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer.

• Sulfur oxides, nitrous oxides, and heavy metals. These chemicals may lead to diseases of the lungs.

• Ash filled with poisoning materials. The ash that remains after burning is harmful to one’s health and has no use as a fertilizer.

So what can we do with the leaves if we don’t burn them? We can use leaves as compost, which is the most environment-friendly alternative to burning.

Leaves may be composted by placing them in an open pile, where they will decompose easily in less than a year. The leaf compost is an excellent fertilizer, can improve gardens, and may be used to fill lowland areas.

As an added information, wood burning for cooking is also hazardous to the health of those living inside the house. Studies show that children develop asthma and respiratory diseases when exposed to wood-smoke.

Prohibit people from burning leaves and waste materials. This will save the city millions of pesos in hospitalization costs due to lung disease and heart disease.

Let us protect the health of our people and the lives of our family and relatives. This can be a win-win situation for all concerned.

source: Philippine Star


Read 1791 times Last modified on Wednesday, 18 July 2018 11:26