Trash Burning, Health, and Global Pollution

by Vins

In July 2014, Christine Wiedinmyer, Robert J. Yokelson, and Brian K. Gullett reported in the scholarly journal Environmental Science & Technology that unregulated trash burning around the globe is significantly increasing atmospheric pollution. Their study established the first “comprehensive and consistent” estimates for emissions of greenhouse gases, particulates, and toxic toxic compounds from open waste burning. As they report, these emissions “are not included in many current emission inventories used for chemistry and climate modeling.”

Although global CO2 emissions from open waste burning constitute just a small component of all human-produced CO2 emissions, Wiedinmyer and her colleagues note that CO2 emissions from trash burning in developing countries in Asia and Africa are “substantial.”

The researchers note two significant areas of concern regarding open waste burning, based on their study’s findings. First, efforts to model climate change need to take into account the effects of open waste burning. They write that, “emissions of many air pollutants are significantly underestimated in current inventories because open waste burning is not included.” Second, emissions associated with open burning are toxic, producing “detrimental health effects” that are “much stronger” than previously considered. These impacts, the authors conclude, “should encourage more structured waste management strategies, particularly as developing countries continue to progress.”
As of October 3, 2014, the corporate media has not covered this story.

Source: Christine Wiedinmyer, Robert J. Yokelson, and Brian K. Gullett, “Global Emissions of Trace Gases, Particulate Matter, and Hazardous Air Pollutants from Open Burning of Domestic Waste.” Environmental Science and Technology, 48(16): 9523-9530, July 14, 2014, [Abstract only]

Student Researchers: Cydney Shorkend and Michael Brannon (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Evrand Peterson (Sonoma State University)