Iowa DNR's Twitter Iowa DNR's Flicker Iowa DNR's YouTube Iowa DNR's Pinterest Iowa DNR's Facebook | Iowa Outdoors Magazine | News | Contact Us

Site Search  search button

Backyard Poison - Garbage Burning

Burn Barrel'Backyard burning' of common household trash and garbage emits substantial amounts of poisons and toxins into our environment. The smoke is a known health and environmental hazard. EPA emission tests show one burn barrel emits up to 80 times more pollution and up to 11 times the dioxin per pound of garbage burned than a municipal waste incinerator that serves tens of thousands of homes. Residential trash burning is now the nation’s largest source of dioxin emissions.

You can help keep poison out of our air, food, water and soil by finding cleaner waste disposal options.

State rules prohibit burning items that can be locally recycled. Common household trash such as synthetics, plastics, metals, and packaging release potent chemicals when burned. Even common paper products such as junk mail, cardboard, newsprint, and magazines contain chemical dyes, coatings, pigments and chlorine.

Emissions include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, acids and toxins such as vinyl chloride, heavy metals, dioxins and furans to name a few. Inhalation may cause immediate irritation or asthmatic attack. Exposure increases the long-term health risks for respiratory problems, cancers, birth defects, developmental abnormalities and other serious health problems for burners and persons downwind. These may occur many years after exposure.

Several toxic chemical emitted are PBTs--Persistent, Bioaccumulative Toxins. They take many decades to breakdown and are building up in the environment and some food chains, posing additional risks when consumed. PBTs are a national pollutant of concern.

Burning household trash in piles, barrels and pits is a poor combustion method with low temperatures, poor oxygen flow and lack of emission controls unlike municipal incinerators. Please learn not to burn. Sanitary disposal and recycling are safe, clean and convenient options. For materials, contacts and resources for cleaner disposal, check out the Iowa DNR Waste Management website.