Burning leaves is a controversy every fall

The fire may only be made on non-combustible soil and the fire may not be left alone. Photo: Urmas Lauri
It is not advisable to burn the leaves in a fire. Photo: Urmas Lauri

It’s time for the leaves to fall, and this brings up the question again: what to do with the raked tree leaves? Every autumn, the Rescue Board receives complaints from people who are disturbed by the neighbor’s habit of burning raked leaves in the fire. Burning tree leaves and other garden waste is prohibited in most densely populated areas, but why?

Making open fires in home gardens is regulated by the municipality’s rules of good order. For the most part, in all densely populated settlements, it is allowed to make a bonfire, observing certain safety requirements, but burning garbage is prohibited. Garbage also includes garden waste, such as leaves, wet branches and other material that produces a lot of smoke when burned. Burning of dry branches is mostly allowed in all municipalities if all fire safety requirements are followed.

Liina Valner, the Communications Manager of the Rescue Board, states that every spring and fall, the Rescue Board receives calls from people who are disturbed by their neighbors’ fires: “Only clean (unimpregnated) wood, cardboard and paper can be burned in a fire. As soon as we throw wet leaves into the fire, it is burning waste, which is not allowed. “Furniture, impregnated or painted wood, tires, cables, plastic, clothes and construction waste should not be burned in a bonfire for a long time, because the smoke produced by their burning contains compounds that are toxic to nature and people,” adds Valner.

Walking around the garden campuses on some sunny weekend afternoons in autumn, you can usually smell the fire in the air. Sometimes, however, the entire street and neighborhood is buried in a sneaker that is breathtaking. Unfortunately, leaf burning is still widely practiced even in areas where it should not be done. Even a brief contact with a sneaker from burning leaves leaves the smell of fire on clothes, and in the worst case, eye irritation, headache and breathing difficulties can occur.

Inhaling campfire smoke is comparable to smoking

As a result of combustion, various dangerous compounds are formed. In addition to carbon dioxide and water vapor, carbon monoxide is also produced, which inhibits the work of red blood cells when it enters the bloodstream through the lungs. Inhaling carbon monoxide increases the risk of developing cancer or heart disease. By burning tree leaves in a bonfire in windless weather, we cause our neighbors to inhale carbon monoxide and increase the health risks of many people.

At this point, parallels can be drawn with smoking a cigarette, because this activity also releases carbon monoxide and other health-damaging compounds into the air, and the harmful effects of passive smoking are a widely known fact. Mostly, today’s smokers have realized that their habit must not harm the health of their fellow people, and in crowded places, smokers are seen less and less – to light a cigarette, they go to a safe distance from others.

The fact that burning wet leaves in a fire is just as reckless as smoking in the middle of a crowd is reaching people a little more persistently. For example, a person suffering from chronic asthma will have a severe effect if his neighbor stokes the fire all afternoon.

There are several solutions

It is easy to advise a smoker that the best solution to avoid carbon monoxide is to quit smoking, and if this is not possible for one reason or another, then one could use a product that is less harmful to health, such as a heated tobacco product. But what do you recommend to a gardener who wants to get rid of leaves?

It is easiest to just leave the leaves unraked and let them rot, as this in turn fertilizes the soil. If not raking is out of the question, then the leaves could be composted or spread on the bed to return the nutrients to the soil. Making your own compost soil is especially sensible if you have a larger garden where fresh compost soil is constantly needed. If there is still nowhere to put the leaves, it is worth asking the local government if and when garden waste collection is organized.

Source: Lääne Elu by online.le.ee.

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