Crystal clear water resembling the most pristine swimming pools you can imagine.
Fresh air that carries the scent of the sea and the sounds of swooping sea gulls.
It’s better in the Bahamas.
Unless the dump is on fire, of course. The
New Providence landfill has been ablaze twice this week, pumping out
air so noxious that no amount of fresh sea air could ever mask it. Not
exactly the stuff fairy tale,
Chamber-of-Commerce-type vacations are made of. Moreover, it may be
years before we fully understand the consequences of being exposed to
the potentially poisonous clouds of billowing gray smoke. So say two
experts – an ecologist and a physician -- who spared
no words on the Lester R. Cox radio show, Connected, on Guardian Talk
Radio today, sharing concern about short and long-term impact of
breathing polluted air.
“First of all, we don’t
know what’s burning,” said Dr. Arlington Lightbourne, owner of the
Nassau-based Wellness Clinic. “We have no idea what the immediate effect
What Dr. Lightbourne does
know, however, is that breathing toxic fumes is directly correlated
with higher rates of chronic respiratory ailments ranging from asthma
and bronchitis to headaches and
“The average-sized person
takes 24,000 to 28,000 breaths a day,” Lightbourne said. “We breathe
the weight of a 10-year-old child in a 24-hour period.”
As for 10-year-old
children themselves, they take in even more air because their oxygen
needs are much greater than that of an adult, and their symptoms might
take years to manifest.
“Lot of effects take 20
years to develop,” Lightbourne said. “You can be 10 today and then at 30
be diagnosed with cancer. How do you make the connection between the
diagnosis with what’s happening
at the dump now? Think about those people who live near the dump.”
Some Bahamians believe
the best solution is to relocate the dump to an area where people aren’t
living in such close proximity to burning trash.
Romauld Ferreira, environmental attorney and director with Save the Bays, however, disagrees.
“The dump is perfectly
located in the center of the island,” Ferreira said. “The problem is
that subdivisions were allowed to be built next to the dump. If you have
a dump and the government approves
it [subdivision] to be built, then you will have this conflict.”
Why is it, then, that the
people themselves aren’t forming some sort of group to file action
against the government in this case? As always, the answer boils down to
“You’re dealing with
everyday people who don’t have money for (law) suits,” Ferreira. “It
takes years to establish personal injury for a class action lawsuit and a
lot of testing.”
Rather than moving the dump, Ferreira’s said reengineering is the ultimate long-term solution.
“Combustion is going on
so there’s a production of methane and there’s no segregation of waste
so once you get a spark, you’re burning methane,” Ferreira said.
“Methane can be vented to stop fires
or can be used as energy. The city dump is not engineered for that. The
built environment is not there, hence we have these fires from time to
But, with an estimated
price tag landing in the range from $60 million to $80 million,
reengineering isn’t likely to happen any time soon, which is why for
Lightbourne’s part, he believes matters
should be taken out of the government’s hands altogether.
“We need to be willing to
speak up, to take an active role in our health and things that effect
our health,” Lightbourne said. “[Poor] Air quality and water quality are
having very negative consequences.
As physicians we need to take a leading role and not allow the
government to take control.”