Burn barrels: Don't burn your garbage

Burning household garbage in burn barrels, stoves, and fire pits creates pollution that's dangerous to human health and contaminates the air, water, and soil. It's also against the law for most homeowners in Minnesota.

Household burn barrels and the like produce low-temperature fires that produce a lot of smoke. Under these conditions, the fires produce carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Smaller amounts of more poisonous chemicals are commonly detected in the smoke: benzene, styrene, formaldehyde, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (also called dioxins), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (or furans), polychlorinated biphenyls, and heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic.

Health concerns

Smoke created by backyard garbage burning seriously affects people with asthma, COPD, and other respiratory conditions, as well as children and the elderly. Exposure to smoke can also increase the risk of heart disease, cause rashes, nausea, and headaches.

U.S. EPA research shows that burn barrels are the number one source of dioxin in the U.S. Just one burn barrel can produce as much or more than a full-scale municipal waste combustor burning 200 tons/day. Dioxin is a potent human carcinogen that is especially harmful for pregnant women, children, and the elderly. It's also an endocrine disrupter and can cause reproductive, developmental, and immunological problems in humans and animals.

Contact your county's environmental services department for information on local garbage collection and other waste and recycling services.