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Voice: If officials won't end field burning, the people must act

January 24, 2002

The Imperial Valley is an eyesore, both figuratively and literally, because of the nearly unbridled practice of field burning. This archaic practice continues despite the fact that there are clean alternatives to the practice and overwhelming corollary and anecdotal evidence linking field burning to the county's childhood asthma rate, which is the highest in the state.

While it is popular amongst certain sectors of the county's elite to throw the blame for our valley's abysmal air quality upon the shoulders of Mexico, and have had at least some success convincing the Environmental Protection Agency of that myth, at least in regard to PM-10 particulates, anyone who lives here knows which way the wind blows — and from which direction it rarely does.

The fact is that smoke from burning fields is largely comprised of particulates as small as 2.5 microns, which is "recognized as most hazardous to human health" by the American Lung Association (Gora, Health Resources October 2001 newsletter). In addition to these minute particulates, there is a plethora of toxic compounds including: ethyl benzene, p-xylene, benzofuran, phenol (and many of its derivatives), naphthalene, anthracine and many others that are known to cause serious ailments of the lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, eye, central nervous system as well as cancer.

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For a more complete list of these chemicals log on to: http://users.Pullman.com/gora/fieldburning/toxic.html

It is time for the practice of field burning to end. I suggest that if the government of Imperial County cannot or will not act, then the people must through a county ballot initiative. I, for one, am tired of the infringements of our right to a healthy airshed by a very few whose interests in continuing the practice are solely economic. What of the economic interests of those whose medical expenses soar every time a burning field triggers asthma attacks in their children?

It is clear that the practice of field burning has a serious impact on the health of the community, as well as the aesthetic qualities of our valley, the beauty of which is too often obscured by filthy clouds of brown smoke. Let us, as a community, begin what may be an arduous task to end field burning in our county. Let us not take "no" for an answer.

R.B. WILSON

El Centro

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