Source: Sherman Publications

Letter to the Editor

November 09, 2011

Dear Editor,

It’s autumn and the leaves are falling again. Now and throughout the year, many local residents believe that burning leaves and yard waste such as branches and brush is a cheap and convenient way to clean up their lawns and properties. What they may not realize is that the drifting smoke from their fires might be making their neighbors sick!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and American Lung Association warn that smoke from burning leaves and wood contains small particles, carcinogens, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other harmful emissions which can worsen existing health problems, contribute to heart and lung disease, and even lead to heart attacks and strokes.

The small smoke particles lodge deep in the lungs and can cause asthma attacks, allergic reactions, and bronchitis. Those most at risk are young children, the elderly, those with heart and lung disease, and others with chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Even healthy people may experience eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation from smoke exposure. It’s not always safe to stay in the house and close the windows because smoke particles can seep in through tiny cracks and circulate in inside air for several hours.

In order to protect public health and safety, the State of Michigan prohibits the open burning of leaves in any municipality having a population of 7,500 or more unless specifically authorized by local ordinance.

The open burning of leaves and yard waste is permitted in Independence Township and is regulated by the township’s open burning ordinance. Residents must also obtain an annual burn permit from the fire department.

In an effort to meet the current needs of our residents, the township board is now in the process of reviewing the existing open burning ordinance to determine whether the rules need to be revised or strengthened. A public forum is scheduled at the Independence Township Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. to discuss this important issue.

If you are concerned about the potentially harmful health impact of open burning smoke on your family and the community, I urge you to attend the public forum and encourage our board members to strengthen the open burning rules to provide township residents with optimal protection against unhealthy smoke emissions. Speak up now for your right to clean, smoke-free air!

Andrea Hirsch

Independence Township