The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has distributed almost 300 facemasks on Monday to residents affected by the landfill fire which has been raging at the Irma Landfill. Facemasks were especially distributed to the elderly, those with medical issues and those in difficult financial situations. Facemasks were also distributed to law enforcement personnel controlling the checkpoints at the landfill fires for further distribution. “Again we are faced with a situation where the community is brought in danger by this significant fire and the smoke caused by it. As we still wait for action to occur regarding the management of our solid waste issues we encourage that especially expectant mothers and those with a weakened immune system wear facemasks to reduce the risk caused by the landfill. We also are really urging that restoration funds be used towards the management of the solid waste issue once and for all. Only though public, open and transparent funding with all the necessary checks and balances can we adequately address this issue. We have communicated this to the World Bank and to Government for inclusion in the restoration fund,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.
During previous studies in air quality and soil composition at the Philipsburg landfill the Nature Foundation recorded positive results for nickel, zinc, arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper, chromium and other heavy metals. Of particular concern are arsenic, lead, cadmium, and copper because of the human health effects. Particularly lead, arsenic and copper can be quite toxic to humans and have been shown to cause some forms of cancer.
These same chemicals are released into the atmosphere through either smoke or through falling fine ash and therefore pose a significant health risk to the community. Landfill fires also release high levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO) into the atmosphere which causes additional health effects through depriving the body of oxygen.
During a survey conducted by the Nature Foundation it was shown that all districts of Sint Maarten have been effected by the smoke caused by the landfill fires; 35% of everyone surveyed frequently experience negative effects throughout the year from fumes coming from the landfill; 50% of all respondents complained about trouble breathing due to the fumes coming from the landfill; 73% of all respondents mentioned burning in their eyes, nose or throat; 50% experienced burning, watering eyes because of the toxic fumes; 30% experienced nausea combined with vomiting; 50% experienced uncontrolled coughing; and 40% have sought medical assistance because of health complications arising from the fumes caused by the landfill
“The Foundation has continuously communicated the results, findings, recommendations and suggestions to decision-makers and it is the hope of the Nature Foundation that a solution to this serious health issue is arrived at urgently, in the meantime we suggest the wearing of these masks” concluded Bervoets. For those in need of facemasks can contact the Nature Foundation through their Facebook page or by calling +1 721 5444267.