As Sugar Cane Fields Catch Fire, Business as Usual Must Go Up in Smoke

The Stop the Burn-Go Green Campaign leadership released the following statement on the first day of the pre-harvest sugar cane field burning season:

“As the sun rises today, October 1, 2023, another pre-harvest sugar cane field burning season dawns on the people in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area. Our call today is to the Palm Beach County Department of Health, which is one of the many accomplices of the sugar industry in its oppression of our communities and its concomitant attack on our public health.

Recent data reveals the burning truth: Sugarcane burning pollution contributes to an estimated 1 to 6 deaths annually in our communities. Those residing near these fields face a staggering 10-fold increase in mortality risk compared to those further away.

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Voices Behind the Smoke: Sugarcane Burning and the Impacts

Patrick Ferguson, Senior Organizing Representative for Sierra Club’s Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign, joins us to discuss the environmental impact of pre-harvest sugar burning.

Beginning in 2015, the Stop the Burn campaign focuses on the environmental and public health consequences of pre-harvest sugar field burning. We will explore the success of green harvesting alternatives, highlighting countries that have embraced this approach. We will also examine the advocacy initiatives undertaken by local leaders, farmers, consumers, and sustainable food advocates.

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FAU researchers secure $4.2 million for study on smoke exposure from agricultural fires & Alzheimer’s risk

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University plan to study the effects of smoke exposure from agricultural fires on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in rural Palm Beach County.

The university and collaborators land a $4.2 million federal grant to focus on those living in rural areas along Lake Okeechobee, near the fields where pre-harvesting burning occurs.“

Small particles, what they call P.M., Particular Matter 2.5, is suspended in the air and when people breathe it in. It goes deep into the lungs, and it can to the brain and cause inflammation, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease,” FAU’s professor emeritus Christine Williams, Ph.D.

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Sugar-cane burning polices racially discriminate against people in Glades, complaint says

Citing federal civil rights law, the Sierra Club and its Glades-based Stop the Burn campaign are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice to investigate the Florida Forest Service’s practice of authorizing sugar-cane field fires that send smoke and ash over predominately Black communities while sparing largely white communities from the fires’ effects.

The group’s complaint filed Friday details state policies in place since 1991 to deny the fire permits when winds are blowing east toward Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and Westlake while allowing them when winds are blowing west.

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