Dioxin is one of the many pollutants given off from illegal burning. Dioxin is a catchall term for three chemical groups: true dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The most dangerous form of dioxin - 2,3,7,8 -tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (or its abbreviation, 2378 - TCDD) - has been called "the most lethal human-made poison." Its toxicity is second only to radioactive waste; just three ounces would be enough to kill one million people. Even at levels less than one part per billion, it can cause serious health impairments. It was once used in Agent Orange, the Vietnam-era herbicide that continues to cause health problems for many American veterans exposed over thirty years ago. Dioxin contamination at Love Canal (Niagara Falls, NY) forced hundreds of families to abandon their homes.

Given off in large quantities by burning plastics and paper, dioxin accumulates in the soil in areas surrounding burn barrels. Ground-level concentrations of dioxin resulting from burning household garbage in a burn barrel are 7,000 times more then the amount formed when garbage is burned in a resource recovery facility. Slow to break down, dioxins linger for centuries in the affected area and are absorbed into plants that grow in the contaminated soil. Animals that eat these plants absorb the dioxin, and ultimately dioxin makes its way to humans who eat the animals or crops grown in this soil. Dioxin does not break down or pass out of our bodies; it accumulates in our fat cells.

Heavy Metals
Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, barium, chromium and cadmium move through the soil into the ground water and cause a host of serious health problems when taken internally. Lead accumulates in blood, bones, and soft body tissues, where it affects the kidneys, central nervous system, and all blood-forming organs. It eventually causes brain damage, mental retardation, seizures, and behavioral disorders. Cadmium, used in metal plating and in batteries, can cause kidney and bone-marrow diseases and emphysema. Mercury can be absorbed through the lungs, mouth, or skin, as well as from eating mercury contaminated fish. It affects the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver; the nervous system and one's ability to feel, taste and move.

Ash & Other Particulate
Ash and other particulate matter can irritate the eyes and throat; damage the lungs; cause bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer, and restrict visibility. It can seriously affect people with asthma or certain allergies. Burn barrel ash laden with heavy metals is particularly toxic, and often seeps into ground water.

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