Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Every year, 22 April marks Earth Day. Our planet, our home, is now very vulnerable with the years of abuse Man has wreaked in the name of development. The media has been bombarding me with bits and pieces of news and information related to Earth Day that I can't help but give some thought to what I am doing in the name of conservation, in saving Earth for the next generation.

One particular channel on TV kept highlighting a must-watch documentary tonight at 9pm. It's none other than 'An Inconvenient Truth'. The newspapers today have dedicated some pages for Earth Day. The radio I listen to in my car has also been blaring away about today. Even Caitlin's school has provided an awareness piece in the 'communication book' to parents.

As we were on our way to Mandarin class, we saw two men burning joss paper (gold/silver-laced paper burnt by the Chinese for worship) by the roadside. Caitlin said, "Mummy, that's not good, because of the smoke..." and I agreed. Although it is a religious practice, I think it would be good if we could avoid burning anything.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation mentioned that:
The disposal of household trash in inefficient, low-temperature combustion typical of open burning may release excessively high amounts of dangerous toxic pollutants.

A study by the EPA, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and DEC measured the types and amounts of many chemicals in the smoke from burn barrels. Burning about 10 pounds of trash in a household burn barrel may produce as much air pollution as a modern, well-controlled incinerator burning 400,000 pounds of trash. The EPA/DOH/DEC study showed that smoke from burning trash in a barrel may contain particulate matter, carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, styrene, formaldehyde, arsenic, lead, chromium, benzo(a)pyrene, dioxins, furans, and PCBs.

Exposure to smoke from open burning may have immediate and long-term health effects, including coughing, nausea, headaches, dizziness, asthma attacks, increased risk of cancer, and aggravation of respiratory symptoms, especially in people with heart or lung disease. Not only can open fires have adverse health effects, they also can become dangerous wildfires.

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