Backyard burning produces various compounds toxic to the environment including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, and particle pollution.
- Nitrogen oxides, or NOx, is a group of nitrogen compounds that are
partially responsible for acid
rain and contribute to global
depletion, and the formation of smog.
- Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are carbon-based compounds that
undergo photochemical reactions (i.e., they react with sunlight) when
released into the atmosphere. The VOCs and the compounds they form in
the atmosphere, such as ozone, contribute to the formation of smog.
- Carbon monoxide,
or CO, chemically reacts with sunlight to create harmful ozone. CO production
can significantly impact ambient air quality and a region's ability
to meet Clean Air Act regulatory air quality standards. Burning garbage
in a barrel or pile produces more CO than decomposition in a landfill.
CO is also a significant greenhouse gas.
- Particle pollution, also known as particulate matter, or PM, refers to the fine particles that produce visible smoke that reduce visibility and creates haze, which is a major air pollution problem for many rural communities. In addition to being unhealthful, particles soil our homes and cars and transport dangerous chemicals, such as dioxins.
Backyard burning is also frequently the cause of residential, brush, and forest fires, particularly during drought conditions. In Wisconsin, 35 percent of wildfires were started by uncontrolled burning of garbage, brush, and grass. Often, fire hazards are caused by burn piles or barrels left unattended, which grow too large or are not fully extinguished.