Open Burning can release toxic chemicals and cause damage to the body
Image by Janne Kraste

Open Burning can release toxic chemicals and cause damage to the body

What Are The Health Effects?


What’s so bad about a little smoke?

What comes out of a burn barrel depends on the types of trash that went in and the temperature of the fire. Burn barrels usually have fires that burn at low temperatures compared to large incinerator plants. The National Center for Air Pollution Control has stated that lower burning temperatures result in more harmful fumes in the air and hazardous materials in the ash.

According to the NYS Department of Health, among the toxic chemicals released by burning household trash and their potential effects are:

  • benzene (induces leukemia)
  • toluene diisocyanate (causes asthma)
  • nitrogen oxides (damages lungs)
  • nitrile compounds (metabolic poisons and carcinogens).

Other toxic compounds released from burning trash may include:

  • dioxins and formaldehyde
  • hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid
  • hydrogen cyanide
  • carbon monoxide
  • cadmium, lead, and chromium

Besides the cancer-causing aspects of these chemicals, some may also cause:

  • eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • lung irritation and congestion
  • skin irritations or burns
  • stomach or intestinal upset
  • eye damage
  • headaches or memory loss

Content for this page was written or compiled by CCE of Schuyler County.

Last updated February 8, 2016