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Letter to the editor


Reader wants health emphasis in smoke vote



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February 08, 2012 - Dear Editor,

The Independence Township Board of Trustees is updating the township's open burning ordinance. As a longtime township resident, I'm very concerned about the health impact of open burning in our community. The smoke from the open burning of leaves, brush, and wood pollutes the air and can affect the health and comfort of everyone in range of the drifting smoke.

According to many health and governmental agencies, including the American Lung Association, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Environmental Protection Agency, smoke from the open burning of wood and leaves contains tiny particles which carry harmful toxins, carcinogens, and gases that can scar the lungs, exacerbate existing health problems, and even lead to early death in some individuals.

Those most at risk are children and babies, the elderly, and those with existing health conditions such as cardiopulmonary disease, emphysema, asthma, diabetes, and hypertension.

Smoke can also be irritating to the eyes, noses, throats, and lungs of otherwise healthy people.

In addition to the numerous health risks, many residents simply wish to enjoy their own homes and yards without being annoyed by drifting smoke from their neighbors' open fires. Drifting smoke is particularly onerous in densely populated neighborhoods where homes are close together. Even with closed windows, smoke can seep in through tiny cracks and openings and circulate in a home for many hours (per MI DEQ).

Updating the open burning ordinance will be no easy task for the board, but I firmly believe the health and welfare of our community should be their main goal. To reduce harmful smoke emissions, I encourage the board to reduce open burning well below currently permitted levels (e.g., by prohibiting the burning of leaves entirely, allowing fewer burning dates and hours, and imposing strict limitations on all open burning including campfires in densely populated neighborhoods) and to increase penalties for illegal burning. It is also important to find practical alternatives to open burning as done in other communities our size.

Please voice your opinion too! Contact our township board members to let them know what you think – e-mail addresses are available at www.twp.independence.mi.us. Please act quickly because the board is planning to make a decision on this matter very soon. Your input is vital—speak up now for clean air!

Andrea Hirsch

Independence Township

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