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Toxins can lead to health woes

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Pedestrians and motorists make their way about in thick smoke on Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, yesterday after a fire in the Beetham landfill, believed to have been maliciously set on Sunday night (inset), left many areas in the capital blanketed in smoke. PHOTOS: ROBERTO CODALLO and PAPA BOIS CONSERVATION

Environmentalist Marc de Verteuil said yesterday that dioxins from burning plastic in landfill sites are some of the nastiest toxins. “They contain carcinogens which can cause cancer,” he said.
De Verteuil said the impact of the smoke and fumes from the Beetham fires can be a long-term one. He said friends of his who suffer from asthma said they were having serious problems and called for the closure of the Beetham dump. He said 80 per cent of its waste could he recycled. Fishermen & Friends of the Sea (FFOS) said that gases escaping from the Beetham dump contain toxic pollutants that directly cause asthma and other serious respiratory ailments. “Well proven studies link living near landfills with cancer, where escaping gases will typically contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals, including volatile organic compounds,” a FFOS release, signed by secretary Gary Aboud and president Terrence Beddoe, said. 



The FFOS said all dumps like the Beetham leak toxic leachate and even “engineered” landfills will eventually leach and pollute nearby groundwater. “The Beetham was started in a mangrove swamp with shallow ground water, the worst place for a landfill. When landfills catch fire the partially combusted smoke can be deadly if there is persistent exposure.” It said for almost two decades the FFOS had pointed out the unsatisfactory situation at the Beetham dump. It added: “Administrations have come and gone and nothing has ever been done. Unqualified persons have been repeatedly appointed to the board and management of SWMCOL. 


“Any visitor heading to the Hyatt only has to drive by the Beetham to know how third world our rich little oil/gas economy actually is. Poverty on the right and pollution on the left.” The FFOS is planning to mount an unprecedented public awareness campaign to force environmental issues onto the political platforms in the upcoming general election. “We shall not stand by while unqualified and self-serving politicians continue to ruin the health of innocent and unsuspecting communities. Pollution must join poverty, crime and corruption centre stage in the next elections,” it added.


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