To learn more about the dangers of back-
yard burning and disposal alternatives, visit
EPA's Backyard Burning Web site at
. This site also
provides brochures, and links to state environ-
mental departments and their open burning
regulations, as well as links to numerous local
government programs, codes, and ordinances.
Earth 911  has com-
munity- and state-specific recycling and dispos-
al information by ZIP code. Or call 1-800-
CLEANUP for the same information.
For more information on dioxins, how they
are formed, associated health effects, and
other frequently asked questions, visit EPA's
Dioxin Web site at  m
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                                                                          Photograph courtesy of Tim Rudzik

                                                  WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO
                                                   PROTECT YOUR HEALTH AND
                                                         THE ENVIRONMENT

                                                                                                  &urning household waste in
                                                                                                  burn barrels or open piles
                                                                                                  might be common in your
                                                                                           community. But the smoke from
                                                                                           these fires contains dangerous
                                                                                           chemicals that affect your health
                                                                                           and pollute our environment.
                                                                                           Stopping backyard burning will
                                                                                           help us all breathe easier.



Backyard burning is a more serious threat to
public health and the environment than previous-
ly believed and has  been banned by many state
and local governments. Burning household waste
produces many toxic chemicals and is one of the
largest known sources of dioxins in the nation.


What are dioxins?
Dioxins are highly toxic, long-lasting organic
compounds. They are dangerous even at
extremely low levels and have been linked to sev-
eral health problems, including cancer and devel-
opmental and reproductive disorders.
How are dioxins  formed?
Dioxins are formed when products containing
carbon and chlorine are burned. Even very small
amounts of chlorine can produce dioxins.
Because burn barrels do not have the same strict
controls as municipal incinerators, barrel burning
releases significant amounts of dioxins. Trying to
prevent dioxins from forming by separating out
items high in chlorine content is not effective,
since low levels of chlorine are present in most
household trash.
How are we exposed to dioxins?
Dioxins accumulate in the food chain. Airborne
dioxins can settle onto feed crops, which are
then eaten by domestic meat and dairy animals.
Dioxins also can settle on water or enter water-
ways through soil erosion. These dioxins accu-
mulate in the fats of animals, and then in
humans when we consume meat, fish, and dairy

Smoke from burn barrels contains hazardous pollutants
such as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, lead, mercury,
and hexachlorobenzene. These pollutants can have
immediate and long-term health effects such as:
   • Asthma, emphysema, or other respiratory
   • Nervous system, kidney, or liver damage.
   • Reproductive or developmental disorders.
Not only are the people who burn trash exposed to
these pollutants, but so are their families and neighbors.
Children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respi-
ratory conditions can be especially vulnerable.
The ash residue from backyard burning can contain
toxic pollutants, such as mercury, lead, chromium, and
arsenic, which can contaminate vegetables if scattered
in gardens. Children can accidentally swallow toxic
materials from dirt on their hands while playing near
discarded ash.

• Reduce. You can reduce the amount of
 waste you generate by using durable, long-
 lasting goods and avoiding disposable items;
 buying products in bulk; and looking for
 products with less packaging.
• Reuse.  Reusing items is another way to
 reduce the amount of waste you generate.
 Repair, sell, or donate used or unwanted
 items or organize a neighborhood swap
 event. One person's trash is another per-
 son's treasure!
• Compost.  Composting is a great way to
 dispose of yard trimmings and food scraps,
 while creating a natural, free fertilizer. Many
 communities offer weekend classes on how
 to compost, and some even provide com-
 posting bins at a reduced cost or show you
 how to build your own.
• Recycle. Contact your local government to
 find out  about curbside pick-up of recyclable
 materials or drop-off locations.
• Properly Dispose of Waste. Don't litter
 or dump illegally. Use a waste collection
 service or take your waste to a transfer sta-
 tion, convenience center, or local landfill.
 Check with your local officials to learn
 about collection service and drop-off sites in
 your community.
                                                           For more information on these steps you can
                                                           take, visit EPA's Municipal Solid Waste Web site
                                                           at  and click on "Reduce,
                                                           Reuse, and Recycle."