Alarm sounded over dangers of burning rubbish

The fire at the Tagarades landfill, which continued to smolder for a sixth day yesterday, is emitting dangerous levels of harmful gases, scientists warned, as firefighters had to battle a blaze which broke out at Attica’s only garbage dump at Ano Liosia. Experts yesterday advised residents living near the landfill in eastern Thessaloniki to avoid eating any vegetables they had grown themselves as well as eggs and dairy products from free-range animals in the area. «Ten grams of dioxins are emitted from the Tagarades landfill every day when in Denmark the burning of rubbish – which in 90 percent of cases is done at organized centers – produces only 4 grams around the whole country in a year,» said Nikolaos Mousiopoulos, a professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University. He earlier attended a meeting of a prefectural coordinating body that met to discuss how to deal with the environmental consequences of the fire. Experts recommended that extra meters to measure pollution particles be set up at various points around the city to give scientists a better understanding of what effect the fire is having. Fears of the effects of burning garbage were heightened yesterday after a fire broke out late on Tuesday at the Ano Liosia dump in northwestern Athens. It took 55 firefighters until 5 a.m. to put out the blaze. Meanwhile, experts repeated their warnings of the dangers for people who inhale smoke from burning rubbish. «Fires at landfills produce chemical substances that are toxic and exceedingly carcinogenic,» Miltiades Statheropoulos, alternate professor in the chemical engineering department of the National Technical University of Athens, told Kathimerini yesterday. He said that the maximum recommended level of exposure to carbon monoxide is 35 particles per million (ppm) whereas the level near the fire reaches some 1,000 ppm. Equally, the daily level for exposure to microparticles is 65 mgr/m3 but burning rubbish can cause the number of microparticles in the air to shoot up to 3,000 mgr/m3. «Exposure to particles can cause serious breathing problems. It also hides an added problem since particles carry dioxins and other dangerous chemical substances,» added Statheropoulos. «Their high concentration should serve as an indicator for evacuating an area.» Authorities have so far not indicated that they will move any residents away from the area around the Tagarades landfill.