How can exposure to smoke from a dump fire affect your health?

April 25, 2018

A fire broke out in a landfill dumpsite near Htein-Pin Cemetery in Hlaing Tharyar Township Yangon, raising health concerns of people in the local area and nearby areas. Some news reported that the odour of smokes can be smelt from city centre. This dump fire should be considered as a serious issue as this can produce various noxious chemicals including carbon monoxide, aldehydes, sulphur dioxide, acid gases, methane, dioxins, furans and many more.


This article is to inform about the public health safety and to prevent intoxication of the chemicals released from the dump fire.


Potential Health Complications from the Dump Fire

  1. Irritation to the Eyes, Nose and Throat

  2. Nausea and Vomiting

  3. Decrease Lung Function, Shortness of Breath

  4. Asthmatic Worsening

  5. Hypoxia (Decrease oxygenated blood supply)

  6. Headache, Chest Pain

  7. Cardiovascular Diseases

  8. Various types of Cancers


It is to be noted that inhaling poisonous chemicals can lead to death and many other chronic conditions.


Carbon Monoxide


Carbon Monoxide is one of the most abundant poisonous gas from a dump fire. Carbon Monoxide replaces Oxygen in your blood and can decrease the body’s oxygen supply and can cause headache, dizziness and if its concentration is high enough, you may become unconscious or die. Prolonged exposure may lead to long-term health problems such as heart disease and cancers. Elderly people, children, pregnant women and people with heart disease, anaemia and other pulmonary disorders may be more vulnerable to Carbon Monoxide poisoning.




“Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer,” said WHO. Exposure to dioxin can cause skin lesions and altered liver function. Pregnant women and infants are more vulnerable to Dioxin poisoning.


Sulphur Dioxide (or) Acid Rain


In 2014, a massive fire broke out at a garbage dump in Thailand and the level of sulphur dioxide in the air at the dumpsite was 4.5 ppm, far above the maximum standard 0.2ppm (data from Centre of Chemical Emergency Response). When sulphur dioxide is emitted into atmosphere, they mix with water and other materials before they fall onto the ground as “ACID RAIN”. Acid rain, normally, does not affect human health, however, concentrated sulphur dioxide in the air can cause cardiovascular and pulmonary complications. Nevertheless, acid rain can largely damage the ecosystem including soil, water and vegetation.


How to Prevent from Harmful Chemicals?

  1. Avoiding smoky situations is the best way to avoid exposure.

  2. Use appropriate respiratory protections such as masks to reduce exposure to noxious particles. (N.B. This will not protect you completely from gases)

  3. Limit physical exertion if exposure to high level of toxins cannot be avoided.

  4. Air-conditioning may reduce the noxious chemicals.

  5. If air-conditioning is not available, open the windows as much as possible to let fresh airs circulates in the room and let noxious gases exit.   










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