This was not the first time that I saw burning tires on the streets of Kathmandu and i know it wont be the last too. I also know I am not the only one to witness this. Burning tires has been like a fashion these days. If you want to make your voice heard, you've got to burn some freaking smelly tires. Needless to say, but this fashion has some serious adverse effects on health. I am not a doctor or an environmentalist, so I am not sure about the exact health hazards that burning tires cause. So I thought of surfing the net searching for Health hazards of Burning tires which i did eventually. And finally, i ended up with this article:
"Burning Tires: Health Hazards" by Thakur Amgai.
Source: http://www.nepalnews.com (VOL. 24, NO. 10, SEPT 10 - SEPT 16 2004 ( BHADRA 25, 2061 B.S. )).
As thousands of people resort to burning tires and other stuffs during agitations and demonstrations, they are obliviously exposing their body to the risk of getting cancer, experts say. The substances used in the composition of tires as well as those formed and released during the process of burning are very likely to cause cancer. Such substances are called carcinogen.Tires that are made up of natural and synthetic rubber and petroleum products contain 17 types of heavy metals including bromium, lead, benzene and mercury and many other organic substances. Such metals are not only carcinogens but also lead to many other health hazards like poisoning. When tires are burnt, these metals are released to the atmosphere and can easily enter the human body.
In addition, the burning itself is an undesirable process for environment and public health. As tires are composed of organic materials, the process of burning produces harmful gases like benzene, styrene and 1, 2, 3-butadine.
Not only such harmful gaseous pollutants but very small particulate matters that can enter circulatory system of our body are also released.
According to Bhusan Tuladhar, an environmentalist, while fine particulate matters enter the respiratory tract and invite problems in trachea and lungs, the ultra-fine particles which can include the heavy metals, goes to the inner lungs and enters the circulatory system. The particles that have entered the circulatory system can go to any part of the body along with the blood and cause various kinds of health hazards. Mercury can cause penetration of tissues leading to the cancer of that part while lead causes lead poisoning.
The gaseous pollutants like dioxins formed and released during the process of burning is a very potent carcinogen. "In addition to the heavy metals, dioxin is produced during the process," said Dr. Toran Sharma, an environmental scientist. "Dioxin is one of the most harmful gases in the world and it is very harmful to public health."
Although a detailed study has not been conducted about the health hazards caused by burning tires in the cities, there have been a lot of complaints of respiratory problems when people are exposed to fumes of burning tires.
The oft-repeated modus operandi during the demonstrations suggests that burning tires has emerged as a major threat to public health. Tires are burnt at almost every intersection frequently to protest various things.
The threat to the public health is aggravated by the place and situation when the tires are burnt. Says Tuladhar, "Not only that the tires are burnt in densely populated area, there are a lot of people demonstrating around places where they are burnt. So, many people are exposed to the pollutants."
Children are more vulnerable to the risk created by burning tires. They breathe faster and take in more air and their lungs and other system is not well developed.
Seemingly the problem created by burning tires is a short-term problem. But it has long-term impacts in the environment and public health. The dust of the debris and burnt materials remain in the streets for days after being burnt and are released to the atmosphere every time a vehicle plies over it. People are re-exposed to such substances and they breathe in the particulate matters when they walk or drive in the streets even days after the burning.Moreover, when such substances are washed away by rainwater, it also pollutes the water. The heavy metals present in the tires never disappear and it is hazardous to plants and animals in water as well. The water containing such heavy metals is unfit for drinking and cooking. It also disturbs the ecosystem.
This article is dedicated to all the dumb heads who feel burning tires is a "REAL FUN"