New Year's Bonfires Highly Polluting - The Reykjavik Grapevine

New Year’s Bonfires Highly Polluting

Published December 29, 2011

The bonfires lit on New Year’s Eve account for half of all the dioxin present in Icelandic soil and water for the entire year, an environmental expert says.
New Year’s Eve in Iceland, apart from the tonnes of fireworks exploded, is also marked by bonfires lit at locations all over the country. Typically, these bonfires are comprised mostly of old wooden shipping pallets, in abundant supply at Iceland’s many harbours.
Þorsteinn Jóhannsson, an expert in air quality at the Environment Agency of Iceland, told RÚV that the dioxin produced by all of Iceland’s industry, waste incineration and traffic for the entire year only barely exceeds the dioxin levels produced by these bonfires on a single night. He believes it might be reasonable to consider reducing the number of bonfires lit this New Year’s Eve, rather than banning them outright.
Dioxin is a toxic chemical used as the primary ingredient in the infamous Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange. There was a dioxin scare in Iceland earlier this year when above average levels of the toxin were found in milk and meat. The source of the dioxin was later linked to waste incinerators.

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