Florida has long been considered an idyllic destination for vacationers and retirees alike. From miles of sandy beaches to year-round warm weather, the Sunshine State has no shortage of attractive features. But recent reports are indicating that the state is suffering from an unexpected consequence of all that growth: an alarming rise in garbage-burning emissions that could be making residents sick.
For years, burning trash was a popular method of disposal for Floridians. Generating fewer emissions than landfills, and outbreaks of major wildfires practically nonexistent, the EPA allowed waste facilities to keep burning even after new regulations were introduced in 1996. Even when Florida failed to meet national air quality standards in 2004, the EPA allowed the waste burning to continue.
It wasn’t until recently that the health effects of burning trash in Florida became apparent. In 2017, a large nox-burning facility in Palm Beach County was linked to a large increase in the area’s hospitalization rate for asthma. In 2018, residents from Hillsborough County filed a lawsuit against the EPA for not intervening to stop the waste-burning.
It’s estimated that, due to the burning of garbage, Florida residents exposed to high concentrations of chemicals like carbon monoxide, ozone, and a variety of other assorted pollutants. The health effects of exposure to such substances are vast and include respiratory problems, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and even cancer.
With Florida’s population rapidly increasing, trash burning is proving to be an unsustainable method of waste disposal. Local officials are pushing to transition the state away from burning waste and onto other, more environmentally-friendly methods like composting, anaerobic digestion, and gasification.
The hope is that, by taking the right steps now, Florida can start reducing its emission in the long-term and protect its residents from the health effects caused by burning trash. In the meantime, visitors and residents alike should be aware of the threat posed by burning garbage and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.