Spring cleaning season has arrived and for many Kentuckians it means burning unwanted debris. The Kentucky Division for Air Quality reminds you to learn before you burn.
Smoke from open burning is a health problem that affects everyone but especially children, the elderly and those with existing ailments like asthma. Children also breathe 50 percent more oxygen per pound of body weight than adults do, so their lungs are exposed to more harmful pollutants.
Many people may not realize that burning trash is illegal in Kentucky. “Today’s trash is different than the trash our grandparents used to burn,” said DAQ Director John Lyons. “Plastics, chemicals and other synthetic materials are far more common in the things we throw away. Burning this trash releases high levels of toxic pollutants such as dioxins, sulfur dioxide, lead and mercury.”
State law prohibits the burning of many materials including plastic, tires, cans, coated wire, carpeting and food waste. The burning of trailers, buildings, and construction and demolition debris is prohibited. Painted, stained or treated wood products are illegal to burn because they release dangerous toxins into the air. Items that cannot be recycled should be taken to a state-permitted landfill.
Open burning isn’t just unhealthy, it’s also dangerous. A small fire can quickly spread, resulting in widespread damage. According to the Kentucky Division of Forestry, 21 percent of wildland fires in Kentucky in 2011 were caused by debris burning.
“Kentucky’s forestlands have suffered extensive damage over the past few years due to storms,” said Leah MacSwords, director of the Division of Forestry. “Ice, wind and most recently, tornadoes have left a path of downed trees and broken limbs. With so much fuel on the ground, it doesn’t take much for a fire to spread out of control.”
Some open burning is legal with restrictions. Campfires, fires for cooking, and fires to dispose of tree limbs are permitted in most counties, except when a county-wide burn ban has been declared. During fire hazard season, which runs through the end of April, it is illegal to burn anything within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland area between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Restrictions may also apply during summer months for certain counties whose current pollution levels exceed air quality standards.
Use common sense before burning anything:
·n Do not burn within 50 feet of any structure
·n Do not burn near streams or sinkholes
n Do not burn near landfills or under utility lines
To report illegal open burning or to learn more about open burning restrictions in your area, call the Division for Air Quality’s open burn hotline at 1-888-BURN-LAW (1-888-287-6529) or visit http://air.ky.gov.