As outdoor spring firecleanup begins, your neighbors are starting to clean up yard waste. Sometimes, a well-intending neighbor can become the bane of your existence when they burn their yard waste, triggering your lung disease. This time of year, Breathe Pennsylvania fields phone calls from western Pennsylvanians who ask what they can do to help protect their lungs from the smoke; however, few individuals ever stop to think that the smoke they are creating is affecting someone else’s ability to breathe.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies yard waste as a combination of leaves, brush, and grass clippings. When yard waste is burned, it creates smoke that is full of hazardous air pollutants, including carbon monoxide and particulate matter. The smoke from burning yard waste can irritate the nose, mouth, and throat of healthy adults, so you can imagine how it affects people with asthma.

If there is burning in your neighborhood that is interfering with your ability to breathe, there are options available. You could suggest an alternative to burning that is also effective in eliminating yard waste. According to the Benton Clean Air Agency, alternatives to outdoor burning include:

  • Composting
  • Mulching
  • Chipping
  • Using municipal collection services

If there is no way to avoid a neighbor burning their yard waste, do your best to avoid the smoke. Keeping your windows closed and air conditioning running will help minimize the smoke’s impact on your lungs by providing you with cool, filtered air. Many Pennsylvania municipalities have ordinances that dictate conditions in which burning yard waste is acceptable. Some Pennsylvania municipalities put restrictions on the practice of burning, with some banning the practice altogether. Contact your local township or municipality to check on local regulations, and ask what steps you can take to influence regulations in your area. Even if you don’t have lung disease, exposure to yard waste smoke pollutes the clean air we breathe.



1. Benton Clean Air Agency. (n.d.). Alternatives to outdoor burning. Retrieved from
2. Combustion Portal. (n.d.). Open burning. Retrieved from
3. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Residential yard waste burning- Leaves. Retrieved from