Editorial: Change in leaf burning would protect health

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 13, 2002

A change to Albert Lea’s leaf-burning law is in order.

The city council Tuesday heard from more than a dozen residents for and against banning the practice in Albert Lea, but put off a decision because it’s too late to change the law for this fall, anyway. The new council will take up the issue at its first January meeting.

They should consider choosing one of two options: Either change the rules so that burning is less concentrated on certain days, or ban burning.

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The thick clouds of smoke that cover large portions of the city on leaf-burning days, especially on the weekend, are at the very least an annoyance; for those who have allergies, asthma or other breathing problems, they can be a serious health threat.

Many homeowners are used to being able to burn off their leaves; it’s simple and convenient. It would be a mild hardship if people were forced to find another means of disposal.

Perhaps allowing burning more often would lessen the problem by spreading it out. The city should have ample time to study the issue before January and come to a conclusion about how much it would help.

However, it appears an all-out ban would be a more comprehensive solution. Other cities Albert Lea’s size don’t allow leaf burning at all, and have found other ways to make disposal as convenient as possible. And even if leaf burning is spread out, it still won’t remove the irritants from the air completely; neighborhoods where someone is burning a large volume of leaves could still be as seriously affected.

Protecting the health of residents is a primary function of government, and this is one case where the city should take action &045; one way or the other &045; to do so.

Tribune editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s management and editorial staff.