The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is suggesting that the community wears facemasks in order to protect themselves from the fumes caused by the ongoing fires at the Philipsburg Landfill, and will make 100 masks freely available to the community. According to Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets, “The fire at the landfill has been burning for over a month now resulting in significant negative health effects affecting the community and visitors alike. 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 realize that many may be going through financial difficulties after Hurricane Irma so we will make 100 masks freely available on a first come first serve basis.
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.