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Dear Editor,

With the threat of a serious respiratory disease reaching American Samoa, hopefully our Governor will impose a temporary ban on the burning of yard waste and grass cuttings, and that the ban will be enforced by DPS.

Breathing in smoke while sick with this serious respiratory disease, especially in a population with such high rates of underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart and kidney disease, can only make the disease even more life threatening.

If we are temporarily forced to stop the unnecessary and harmful practice of burning grass cuttings and instead learn to throw our grass cuttings under our banana trees or spread the cut grass out in our taro plantations, we will see that the grass cuttings will improve the growth of our plantations by keeping moisture in the soil, reducing weeds and giving nutrients to the plants. Mulching our plantations with grass cuttings is easier than burning and will help our plantations grow better and increase the amount of food we produce.

 If we don’t have a plantation, we all have bushy areas behind our homes where the grass can be put and left to return into soil. Burning grass and yard waste is unnecessary and is harming the health of the people of American Samoa, especially our children.

 So many people are burning yard waste and grass cuttings in most areas of Tutuila that we are all being forced to breath poisonous smoke every day. Burning grass cuttings is a practice that we have all grown up with and might not realize is harmful. Look around you, and every evening you will see whole villages blanketed in smoke. Our children can’t escape it, even inside their own homes. In most communities in the US, there are laws against open burning to protect the health of the public.

Let’s try to stop this habit of burning grass cuttings and yard waste that is harming our environment and the health of our people.

Ian Gurr