The U.S. military has scores of open trash-burning pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to various sources such as Guernicamag.com. One of their recent articles states there were over 100 operating in Afghanistan last year, because about ten pounds of solid waste were being created daily by the 100,000 military personnel there. The same source says for the same year there were 22 open burning pits in Iraq.
Burning plastic produces smoke containing chemicals that can cause cancer. Toxic pollutants like benzene, styrene oxide, formaldehyde, dixoin, and furans can be emitted upon burning plastic and paper products. The state of Illinois EPA website says these chemicals can cause health problems, Short-term exposure can aggravate asthma and affect other respiratory conditions. Long-term exposure can lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory, reproductive and developmental problems.
Burning computers, TVs and mobile phones releases heavy metals into the air and they are also linked to health problems. Lead, mercury and cadmium are some of the main metals in these consumer products. Apparently diesel fuel is being used in the open burn pits to start the materials on fire, and to keep them burning. This kind of fuel also releases toxins into the air when it is burned. Consider what the State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment says about diesel fuel emissions, “Diesel exhaust and many individual substances contained in it (including arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and nickel) have the potential to contribute to mutations in cells that can lead to cancer. In fact, long-term exposure to diesel exhaust particles poses the highest cancer risk of any toxic air contaminant evaluated by OEHHA. ARB estimates that about 70 percent of the cancer risk that the average Californian faces from breathing toxic air pollutants stems from diesel exhaust particles.”
Sometimes jet fuel is used to burn the trash, and that also can result in emissions of toxic pollutants. Hundreds of U.S. war veterans have taken legal action because they believe medical conditions they have suffered since their deployment are due to exposure to smoke from open-pit trash burning in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Image Credit: burnbarrel.org