PHILIPSBURG:--- The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, through the generous support of private individuals and the business community, will be distributing 350 facemasks at the Carrefour Parking Lot on Thursday, the 8th of February starting at 12 noon. The facemasks will be distributed free of charge on a first come first serve basis. The environmental foundation is distributing the facemasks in order to protect the community from the toxic fumes caused by the burning fires at the Philipsburg Landfill:
“We have been receiving many calls to assist with handing out masks to those being affected by the dump fires. The handing out of masks is not the responsibility of the Nature Foundation, however, we have taken the initiative to do so. Unfortunately, we have had to make available what little financial resources that we had to purchase masks to hand out to the community for free. Because we have been handing out hundreds of masks we have spent out what little funding we had and staff have been buying masks for the community out of pocket. But now, due to the generous support of the community who have been donating to the nature foundation over the last 24 hours we have been able to purchase 350 masks to make available for free to the population. The Sint Maarten Medical Center has also made some surgical masks available for distribution and Angelic Day Touch have also made masks available. Although we believe that the relevant authorities should take up the responsibility of handing out masks to the population we have again taken the initiative to make masks freely available at a first come first serve basis. We have also given facemasks to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs for distribution to the Public Schools,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.
The Nature Foundation reiterated that the only solution to this most critical issue is through aid that is managed publicly and transparently and outside the realm of politics. This is an environmental and public health disaster just as bad, if not worse, than hurricane Irma.
During previous studies in air quality and soil composition at the Philipsburg landfill, the Nature Foundation recorded positive results for nickel, zinc, arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper, chromium and other heavy metals. Of particular concern are arsenic, lead, cadmium, and copper because of the human health effects. Particularly lead, arsenic and copper can be quite toxic to humans and have been shown to cause some forms of cancer.
These same chemicals are released into the atmosphere through either smoke or through falling fine ash and therefore pose a significant health risk to the community. Landfill fires also release high levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO) into the atmosphere which causes additional health effects through depriving the body of oxygen.