Emmet County DPW Media Release, January 31, 2018
Backyard burning of garbage is largely illegal in Michigan and it is practiced by only a tiny percent of residents–even in rural areas—but it has an outsized health impact. Inversions of the usual temperature gradient in the atmosphere highlight the danger by holding the smoke in low clouds of fog near the source.
Residents who burn their garbage may think it is better to do it in the cold months because neighbors will have their windows closed. However, the pollution created by burning garbage has far more serious effects than smell. In recognition of this, the State of Michigan banned backyard burning of most household garbage in 2012. (For ban details, visit Michigan.gov and search for “Burning of Trash”.)
When modern trash is burned, cancer-causing and otherwise toxic compounds like lead, mercury, hydrocarbons, and hexachlorobenzene are released in the smoke. Even burning paper (which is about the only flammable material not included in the ban) releases dioxin, a carcinogen which is potent even at very low levels. And, of course, what goes up must come down. When these chemicals come down over farms, forests, and lakes they are consumed by livestock, wildlife, and fish…