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Garbage fires: the lungs on the front line of the demonstrations


The protest against the pension reform is marked by major trash fires. From these protesting fires, smoke toxic to humans emanates.

In several cities in France, the garbage cans are on fire, and this is not good news for our health.

Strong skin irritations, inhalation of plastic particles or even respiratory problems, garbage fires are far from harmless.

For three weeks, the garbage collectors have hardly passed, leaving mounds of rubbish at the mercy of the demonstrators.

In Paris, wild gatherings are marked by trash fires, randomly set ablaze by protesters.

The peak was reached, on the night of Monday March 20 to Tuesday March 21, with 240 interventions by firefighters for trash fires, according to the Paris police headquarters.

When a fire is mentioned, the main fear is the spread of the fire.

Yet the danger can be more vicious, hiding in the smoke.

Like every combustion, garbage fires release different substances such as carbon dioxide and monoxide or sulphur.

Gases that can cause dizziness if exposed to them, too close for a long period.

A danger of direct toxicity

The smoke from a garbage fire is much more harmful than that from a conventional fire.

The combustion of waste diffuses hundreds of highly toxic substances, such as benzene, ammonia or fine particles.

A chemical mixture with direct consequences on health.

When we burn garbage cans, we release dioxins in large quantities, that makes all the dangerousness of these fires

”, explains to


, Frédéric le Guillou, pulmonologist and president of Respiratory Health France.

This family of molecules, derived from chlorine and considered endocrine disruptors, comes directly from the combustion of plastics.


Dioxins have the particularity of becoming established in food or fat for a long time, one of the best-known dioxins is Agent Orange used in Vietnam

", emphasizes Frédéric le Guillou again.

The toxicity is direct, you just have to approach a burning trash can to feel the effects.

Dioxins cause severe skin rashes, severe throat irritation or regular coughing spells.

Worse, a pregnant woman who passes next to a fire can contaminate her child with dioxins.


Children are the most fragile, because their respiratory systems are not yet complete, [prolonged] exposure to toxic smoke can have irremediable consequences

”, alarm, Frédéric le Guillou.

The hard-hit respiratory system

The smoke emanating from garbage can fires is particularly harmful to people with even mild respiratory conditions.


It is enough to have a simple allergic rhinitis or asthma

and to inhale smoke to trigger flare-ups of your disease

", warns Frédéric le Guillou.

Fine plastic particles, caused by the combustion of waste, can penetrate the bronchial tubes, before spreading into the blood system and causing cardiovascular pathologies, in the event of excessive close exposure.

The absence of disease does not immunize against the toxicity of fumes.

The ideal is not to expose yourself.

There are many people who have diseases and who do not know it and that can prepare fertile ground for a pathology

, ”alarms the expert.

In the event of nearby trash fires, the pulmonologist recommends wearing a surgical mask, covering the mouth and nose.

A protection, well known to all now, which filters "

up to 70% of substance

", according to him.

Read alsoScavengers' strike: garbage cans pile up in several districts of Paris

The impact of these fires on air pollution has not yet been fully defined.

As in all combustion processes, there are fine particles, resin, and nitrogen dioxide that are released into the air

, explains to Le


the communication manager of


, the quality observatory. air in Île-de-France.

But so far our sensors have not revealed any real impact on the air, compared to circulation or heating


To fight against the piling up of garbage cans and therefore potential toxic fires, the town hall of Paris has set up a crisis unit.

Contacted by Le


, she did not respond to our interview requests.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-03-22

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