Covering Louisiana

Nov 21, 2013 10:30 PM by Daniel Phillips

The Air We Breathe: The Problems with Burning Sugar Part 2

As the sugar cane harvest continues here in Acadiana the plumes of smoke drifting over the fields are easy to find, and a sign that doctors will soon start seeing patients coming in complaining about the burning.

Dr. Bradley Chasant, a local ear, nose, and throat doctor says it is a time of year when he sees a spike in patients and believes a lot of that has to do with the burning.

Dr. Raj Boopathy is a professor at Nicholls State who has studied the consequences the burning has on local residents since particles that are released into the air can make their way into people's lungs.

What he found was that there is a spike in local hospitalizations during the harvest, a result that other doctors say they agree with.

"We see a lot of pathology, we see a lot of respiratory and sinus stuff, interestingly we see more dizzy patients, migraine patients, and patients who have trouble sleeping." said Dr. Chasant.

Farmers take public health into consideration and try to burn on days when the smoke will be dispersed, but this time of year that can be difficult.

The harvest takes place in late fall, a time when there are low ceiling clouds that prevent burning particles from going up into the atmosphere, instead they sit in local environments making them easier to breathe in.

Research is being done to try and eliminate the burning process, and so far the best alternative has been composting the leaf trash on a large scale. Composting is done on a small scale but anything more could add to the cost of harvest.

Burning complaints have been declining and residents try to be understanding but the fact remains that all that smoke can still cause some public health concerns.



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