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Health risks of burning plastic

21 Jun 2019

Health risks of burning plastic


Following reports of toxic smoke from backyard burning, Tairawhiti residents are reminded of the serious health risks and environmental impacts of burning plastic.

When burnt, plastic releases toxic chemicals well as particulates into our air.

These pollutants are carcinogenic and increase the likelihood of respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis, while also stressing our immune systems.

Ensure grades 1 and 2 plastic go in your recycling bin, and grades 3 – 7 (or plastics without a number) go in with rubbish. To reduce your rubbish, avoid buying products in grades 3 to 7 packaging, or reuse and repurpose.

During the winter months, warm polluted air gets trapped beneath the layer of cool upper air, with pollutants from fireplaces, backyard burning and traffic emissions all contributing to a decline in air quality.

Only burn dry, seasoned firewood in your fireplace as this produces less smoke and particulate matter pollution.

To increase efficiency and reduce emissions produced, use kindling, open the vents when adding wood and burn the fire brightly. Also ensure chimneys are kept cleaned and maintained.

Treated timber (including painted wood and construction off-cuts) or driftwood should not be burnt.  They corrode the metal fire box and flues, emit toxic gases (including arsenic and dioxin) and leave toxic residues in the ash.

Here's more information in our Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan on air quality