Rustling green leaves on the trees offer a splendid sight in all the seasons. But as the spring fades and the leaves wither away, don’t get down to burning them. Delhi is freezing… agreed, but do you know that it is illegal to burn leaves in Delhi? Burning leaves causes pollution and thus cause damage to the environment.
When you plant a tree, it multiplies in several positive ways to refresh environment. Inverse of the same, when you burn leaves, it harms our well being in million irreversible ways. Open burning of leaves produces particulate matter and hydrocarbons, which contain a number of toxic, irritant, and carcinogenic compounds. This smoke also contains carbon monoxide, a potential life deterrent. If inhaled together, such pollutants can lead to respiratory infection, asthma attack and many deadly breathing problems.
Hydrocarbons are compounds that can exist as both gases and solid particles. Since leaves are often moist and burn without proper air circulation, they often burn poorly, producing high levels of hydrocarbons. These include some ketones and aldehydes which cause irritation to the eyes, throat, nose and lungs. A considerable amount of hydrocarbons in leaf smoke contain polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are carcinogens. Similarly, carbon monoxide produced due to incomplete combustion of leaves is very harmful to health. It can be absorbed into the bloodstream through lungs and can further reduce the supply of oxygen in red blood cells.
Unborn children, newborn infants, smokers, the elderly, and persons with heart and chronic lung disease are more susceptible to carbon monoxide than the general population.
On the whole, burning leaves adversely affects our health and environment. Instead, following is what should be done with withered leaves:
- Compost leaves along with other yard trimmings to maintain the quality of gardens. This helps in reducing the leaves’ volume by 75%
- Hand over the leaves directly to local trash hauler
- Collect the leaves in bulk and give them to a gardener or farmer, who can put them to maximum best use through fertilizing
- Dispose the yard waste directly to a local landscape waste disposal site
In this manner, we can not only control leaf burning but also put dead leaves to right use and save the environment.