The Harmful Effects of Incineration

Humans learned to control fire a long time ago. Some say with certainty it happened around 400,000 years ago and others believe it might have happened over a million years ago. The control of fire allowed early humans light at night, the ability to cook food; it provided warmth and safety from certain predators. There is no question it allowed man to evolve.

There are times when a good thing can also produce bad things. Take for example burning of waste. The good thing is it definitely renders the waste harmless, but it also emits greenhouse gas, Carbon Monoxide (CO) that can be very harmful to humans when inhaled. Open burning of waste produces an estimated 37 million tons per year of CO gas, or 7% of global CO emissions. True, waste burning is not a primary emitter of CO globally, but nevertheless it is responsible for the release of a significant amount of CO into the atmosphere. The most dangerous impact of CO exposure to man is carbon monoxide poisoning. This is a fact that has been well researched.

Studies have shown that short-term exposure to excess levels of dioxins, furans and DLCs can cause chronic skin lesions known as chloracne is an acne-like eruption of blackheads, cysts, and pustules associated with over-exposure to certain halogenated aromatic compounds, such as chlorinated dioxins and dibenzofurans. Chloracne is particularly linked to toxic exposure to dioxins—so much so that it is considered a clinical sign of dioxin exposure. The long -term effects of excess levels of dioxin exposure over and above the acceptable levels have proven to be very severe. Overall it has been shown that the highest levels of dioxin-exposure over a lifetime, increases risk of all forms of cancer by 40%.

There are of course advantages and disadvantages to using incineration to dispose of waste. It all comes down to consideration of sustainability and accountability. Our landfills are over flowing and our air quality is in jeopardy.  New technologies are available today that did not exist before in regard to waste disposal. "We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world’s been turning.” It’s time to take control.