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Fall foliage season comes to a close; here's why you shouldn't burn leaves

Peak foliage ended on November 7th, and now there's tons of leaves all over the ground. Although you want to get rid of them, burning them is not the best option.
Credit: Adobe Stock
Red maple leaves on branches

MOLINE, Ill. —

With peak fall foliage coming to an end on Nov. 7, there are still lots of leaves on the ground. Although they can be a pain to clean up and people want to get rid of them quickly, burning them is not the best option.

Burning leaves can pollute the air with particulate matter, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide. Hydrocarbons can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and some have the potential to cause cancer.

Burning leaves can cause difficulties for those battling respiratory problems, COVID-19 and asthma  The smoke from burning leaves contains tiny particles that can accumulate in the lungs and stay there for years. This can cause respiratory infection or reduce the amount of air reaching the lungs.

When burned, leaves can release dioxins, a carcinogen compound that can be inhaled or incorporated into the food chain.

They're also a fire hazard to people and structures, especially during dry and windy weather, which occurs a lot in the fall due to the jet stream getting stronger from the cold air in the mid-latitudes and warm air in the tropics.

Burning leaves release excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; a major contributor to climate change.

Carbon monoxide can form from smoldering leaf piles. Once this gas is inhaled, it enters the bloodstream, where it reduces the amount of oxygen that red blood cells carry.

Instead of burning leaves, you can rake them, use a leaf blower or keep the leaves to use for compost, fertilizer or soil conditioner.

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