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Division for Air Quality urges caution when burning debris

Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT -- Spring-cleaning season is here and for many Kentuckians that means burning unwanted debris. But before you light that burn pile, the Kentucky Division for Air Quality (DAQ) reminds the public that burning garbage is illegal in the state and that illegal burning could result in fines of up to $25,000 per day per violation.

Many people may not realize that burning garbage is illegal in Kentucky.

"Garbage doesn't just disappear when it is burned," DAQ Director Sean Alteri said in a statement. "Burning garbage emits dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere that are harmful to public health." Dioxins, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde, and heavy metals are just some of the toxic substances found in smoke from burned garbage.

Children, the elderly, and those with existing health problems like asthma and heart disease are most at risk from open burning. Children are particularly sensitive to air pollution because their bodies are still developing. Children also breathe 50 percent more oxygen per pound of body weight than adults do, so their lungs are exposed to more harmful pollutants.

State law prohibits the burning of many materials including plastic, tires, cans, coated wire, carpeting and food waste. In addition, the burning of trailers, buildings, and construction and demolition debris such as shingles, drywall and insulation is prohibited. Painted, stained or treated wood products like fence posts, pallets, and furniture are illegal to burn, because they release dangerous toxins into the air. Items that cannot be recycled should be taken to a state-permitted landfill.

Open burning isn't just unhealthy, it's also dangerous and can be expensive. A small fire can quickly spread resulting in widespread damage, especially during windy weather. Last month, the Kentucky Division of Forestry reported 143 separate wildfires burned 5,914 acres. Forty-five of those fires were from debris piles that got out of control. Homeowners that allow a fire to escape their property will be charged for cost recovery and can face additional penalties, a state news release said.

Boone, Boyd, Bullitt, Campbell, Kenton, Lawrence, and Oldham counties face additional open burning restrictions during ozone season, which runs from May 1 through Sept. 30. During these months, open burning of tree limbs and brush, land clearing, and household paper products is not permitted. Open burning is never permitted in Jefferson County.

So when burning anything, please use common sense:

â ¢ Never burn within 50 feet of any structure

â ¢ Never burn near streams or sinkholes

â ¢ Never burn near landfills or under utility lines

To report illegal open burning or to learn more about open burning restrictions in your area, call the Division for Air Quality at 502-564-3999 or visit http://air.ky.gov.

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