OBOT (Open Burning Outreach Team)

Breathe... Don't Burn

We need your help to keep our air clean and healthy for everyone in our state. Several years ago, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Division of Air Quality (DAQ), initiated an outreach team to communicate to the public the dangers of open burning, or burning trash in an open fire or burn barrel. The Open Burning Outreach Team (OBOT) in addition to working with multiple agencies, fire departments, and local groups, tries to spread a simple message; burning man made trash is dangerous, produces unhealthy air pollution, and is illegal. These materials include everything from household wastes to old tires, plastics, and construction debris. Trying to stop illegal burning takes an enormous amount of staff time and resources. The number of these open burning violations and subsequent enforcement actions made up over 51% of all the DAQ?s enforcement cases. The penalties ranged from just a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars each. OBOT is comprised of employees from the DAQ?s seven regional air quality offices across the state who work to reduce air pollution and keep North Carolinians healthy. Illegal open burning is a serious issue in North Carolina.

The goal of the team was, and still is, to try and inform the general public on the health dangers of illegal open burning. To date, outreach efforts have been made to individual groups and associations which incorporate our messages into their newsletters and other printed materials. We continue to keep the North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and all North Carolina fire departments on a three year rotating cycle of education and outreach.

How long have air quality open burning regulations been in effect?
Since 1971.

What are some of the health effects from backyard trash burning?
Smoke from fires containing synthetic materials can be a serious health threat to you and your neighbors, particularly for those with respiratory conditions such as asthma or emphysema. Potential human health effects include: lung and eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, asthma attacks, and coughing. Burning household trash also produces many toxic chemicals and is one of the largest known sources of dioxins in the nation. The remaining ash contains toxic substances too. These toxins leach into the soil to be taken up by plants or may get into streams, lakes, ponds or groundwater. More information on the health effects from backyard trash burning can be found at EPA.

Air Awareness Open Burning can produce dioxins ... what are dioxins?
Dioxins are highly toxic, long-lasting organic compounds that are dangerous even at extremely low levels. They have been linked to several health problems, including cancer and developmental and reproductive disorders. Dioxins are formed when products containing carbon and chlorine are burned. Even very small amounts of chlorine can produce dioxins. Trying to prevent dioxins from forming by separating out items high in chlorine content is not effective, since low levels of chlorine are present in most household trash.

What is the Breathe, Don't Burn! Classroom Activities project?
The Breathe, Don't Burn! Classroom Activities project is aimed at helping teachers incorporate a few fun, and easy environmental education lessons into their classroom. Open burning is a serious air quality issue in North Carolina and not usually talked about. We need your help (teachers!) to get the conversation going. ?Download or Order FREE lesson plans and classroom activities.

Can a person go to jail for violations of 15A NCAC 2D.1900?
Yes. North Carolina General Statute 143.215.6 provides, in addition to the civil penalty, a fine up to $25,000 per day of violation, imprisonment up to six months, or both. These sanctions are provided for persons who willfully or negligently violate any environmental standard pursuant to NCGS 143-215. Repeat offenders are subject to fines and imprisonment terms double these amounts.

Who can enforce the criminal provisions contained in 143.215.6?
Any duly sworn law enforcement officer of an agency having jurisdiction in North Carolina.

How can my students use this site?
By visiting our Students page! Here, students can conduct preliminary research for "Breathe, Don't Burn!" projects and activities. They can learn the basics about open burning and air pollution from brochures, weblinks, and short videos.

Who can I contact to learn more about open burning?
Contact the appropriate DAQ regional office.