Spring-cleaning season has arrived, and for many Kentuckians that means burning unwanted debris. But before they light that burn pile, the Kentucky Division for Air Quality reminds residents to “learn before you burn.” Many people may not realize that burning garbage is illegal in Kentucky and could result in fines of up to $25,000 per day per violation.
“ Garbage doesn’t just disappear when it is burned,” Division for Air Quality 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 backyard burning of garbage, Alteri said.
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.
A small fire can quickly spread, especially during windy weather, resulting in widespread damage. This year in April alone, the Kentucky Division of Forestry reported 385 separate wildfires burning a total of 11,521 acres. This is 100 fires more than last year’s total for April, a news release said.
Some open burning is legal with restrictions. Campfires, fires for cooking, and fires to dispose of tree limbs are permitted in most counties, except when a county-wide burn ban has been declared, or when prohibited by local ordinance.
Use common sense before burning anything:
• Never burn within 50 feet of any structure
• Never burn near streams or sinkholes
• Never burn near landfi lls or under utility lines
To report illegal open burning or to learn more about open burning restrictions in your area, please call the Division for Air Quality’s open burn hotline at 1-888-BURN-LAW (1-888-287-6529) or visit air.ky.gov.