Roadside garbage fires a common but unhealthy practice in India
Samples of smoke particles emanating from burning roadside trash piles in India have shown that their chemical composition and toxicityare very bad for human health.
The wide variation found between sites by a Duke University study, however, does offer insights about how to mitigate the worst effects of the common practice.
"From our tests, we found that somebody standing near one of these fires is getting a dose of toxins 1000 times greater than they would from the ambient air," said Michael Bergin, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke, who's findings appeared last month in the journal Atmospheric Environment. "To put it another way, a person would only need to breathe these particles for a minute to get an entire day's worth of hazardous particulate matter."
Of the nearly 2 billion tons of garbage produced worldwide each year, nearly half of it is burned for disposal, according to some estimates. While much of this total is burned in large collection and disposal sites away from heavily populated areas, many cities and towns do not have the infrastructure in place to collect waste -- especially in India.
"As you walk down the street in India, there are just piles of trash growing larger and larger until somebody decides to take a match to it," said Heidi Vreeland, a doctoral student in Bergin's laboratory and lead author on the study. "Even in large cities such as Bangalore, and even in the more affluent neighborhoods, this is just the norm."
In their study, Bergin and Vreeland took samples of emissions coming from 24 roadside garbage fires in urban Bangalore. They then tested the collected particles for toxicity through both a chemical analysis and by applying them to cultured cells.
While the results showing that the high concentrations of particles near the fires resulted in 1,000 times more toxic exposures to nearby humans, one aspect of the experiment was eye-raising. Thanks to various organic compounds burning in each fire, the test filters were turned different colors, making a rainbow of toxins.
"When you take samples of ambient air either here in the United States or in India, you just get different shades of grey," said Vreeland. "But these smoldering fires turned our filters such different colors that one of my lab-mates actually thought I was looking at a panel of eye shadows."
The wide variability found in the fumes likely stems from the trash piles containing many different organic and plastic materials. It's also a result of smoldering, incomplete combustion, which offers at least one insight into how the practice might be improved.
"Just making sure the fire is hot enough and there's enough material available could go a long way to reducing its toxicity," said Bergin, who is beginning work on systems and recommendations that could help such roadside fires be less toxic, and perhaps even to recoup some energy from their burning.
With a greater understanding of what people are burning, he hopes to determine some best practices to keep the pollution down to a minimum. In the meantime, Bergin and Vreeland say the results are important from an educational standpoint as well. Although the results may not surprise any researchers or environmentalists, calling attention to the fires' toxicity is important because nearby residents might not know the fumes are hazardous.
"When I was a kid growing up in Minneapolis, we used to collect our yard's leaves each year, spend a few days jumping into the piles, and then the whole neighborhood would just burn them," said Bergin. "I was still very young when the city banned the practice because it's terrible for the lungs of everyone in the city, but at that time nobody thought twice about it."
"When I visited Nicaragua to help provide residents with alternate methods of cooking other than live fires in their homes, nobody understood that the smoke was making them cough," echoed Vreeland. "Coughing was just part of everyone's normal life. They couldn't even really understand how not coughing could be an option."
This research was supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (RD83479901) and the National Science Foundation (1243535).
CITATION: "Chemical characterization and toxicity of particulate matter emissions from roadside trash combustion in urban India," Heidi Vreeland, James J. Schauer, Armistead G. Russell, Julian D. Marshall, Akihiro Fushimi, Grishma Jain, Karthik Sethuraman, Vishal Verma, Sachi N. Tripathi, Michael H. Bergin. Atmospheric Environment, Sept. 20, 1026. DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.09.041
Ken Kingery | EurekAlert!
NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures
17.11.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
High speed video recording precisely measures blood cell velocity
15.11.2017 | ITMO University
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses