Fall Leaf Burning…Hazardous to Your Health & Leads to Air Pollution

burning leaves - air pollution

Photo courtesy of TheGazette.com

When asked your favorite season of the year, many people choose fall.  Milder weather means more time spent outdoors enjoying nature. Apples, pumpkins and other harvest decorations come out of storage and the holiday season kicks off.  One of the tell tale signs that fall has arrived is the smell of burning leaves. You know the drill.  That time of year when the seasons change and your grass is suddenly completely covered in fallen, dead leaves.  Many of us remedy this issue by spending the day or days ranking leaves into piles meant for burning.  Although this may be an annual tradition for many of us, it may not be the best idea.

Aside from the fact that burning leaves is against the law in many places due to safety concerns, did you know that it can also be hazardous to our health?

The smoke produced from burning leaves contains high concentrations of microscopic particles and dust. Once inhaled, these particulates can embed deep within lung tissue.  According to The Breath Campaign, breathing these particulates can lead to respiratory infection, reduce the volume of air inhaled and impair the lungs’ ability to use that air. Particulate matter can also trigger asthma attacks in some people. Various toxic gases and chemicals, called hydrocarbons, are produced by the burning leaves. These can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation.

In addition to health concerns, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), multiple leaf and yard waste fires burning at the same time in a particular geographic region can cause air pollution similar to that from factories and motor vehicles.

There are other ways to deal with your yard full of dead leaves which are safer, more environmentally friendly and without health risks.

  • Mulching: use your lawn mower to chop the leaves and allow them to return nutrients to the grass and soil
  • Composting: add your yard waste, including grass, leaves and branches to a compost pile
  • Pick up service: some communities will collect yard waste on certain days or you may drop off your waste at a local landscape disposal site
dont burn leaves

Image Credit: Mt. Lebenon, PA Official website

Let this be the season that you break your traditional leaf burning routine and instead use one of the above referenced alternatives.  Better enjoy your time outside while breathing fresher air this fall!