VALLEY — This has been a challenging year for those with respiratory conditions. Smoke from wildfires in Colorado and other states has impacted the air quality in the San Luis Valley.
“Valley residents are concerned about this potential threat to their health, and with good reason,” says Lynnea Rappold, SLV Regional Environmental Health Coordinator. “Air quality has been bad this year due to wildfires, and burning on a bad air day can have a negative impact on neighbors who might already be having difficulties. We want to remind everyone to check the air quality before burning, and to follow the free burn permit process.”
Some kinds of outdoor burning are more harmful than others. In the past, garbage consisted of primarily natural materials. Today’s garbage is a mix of plastics, synthetics, and products produced using chemical processes. When these things are burned they release harmful chemicals like dioxins, particle pollution, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) into the air.
These dangers do not just disappear into the wind. They can find their way into food and water supplies as well as the air. Dioxins are one good example. Back yard trash burning is the largest source of dioxin emissions. Dioxins can then travel through the air and settle on plants, which in turn may be eaten by meat and dairy animals. In turn, people are primarily exposed to dioxins by eating meat, fish, and dairy products. Dioxins can alter the growth and development of cells in ways that can result in health problems such as immune deficiency, hormonal disruptions, and cancer.
Safety concerns prompted the state of Colorado to adopt Colorado Air Quality Control Regulation 9 in 2015 to address the more dangerous forms of outdoor burning. The law states that the only items that should be burned are untreated, natural wood (sticks and branches), leaves, dry prairie grass, slash and weeds. A no-cost general open burning permit is required to burn these items. Campfires, non-commercial cooking fires and agricultural burning are exempt from the permit requirement. Tree stumps, tires, chemicals, plastic, cut lumber, construction debris or trash should never be burned.