Philipsburg — The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has made 100 facemasks available to the Charlotte Brookson Academy this week. The facemasks were donated on two separate occasions by Nature Foundation Project Manager Melanie Meijer ze Schlochtern and Manager Tadzio Bervoets in order to provide some protection to the students of the school. “The staff and students of the CBA are in a direct downwind location from the fumes caused by the landfill and therefore we decided to provide these facemasks to the staff and students”, commented Bervoets.
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.
During a survey conducted by the Nature Foundation it was shown that all districts of Sint Maarten have been effected by the smoke caused by the landfill fires; 35% of everyone surveyed frequently experience negative effects throughout the year from fumes coming from the landfill; 50% of all respondents complained about trouble breathing due to the fumes coming from the landfill; 73% of all respondents mentioned burning in their eyes, nose or throat; 50% experienced burning, watering eyes because of the toxic fumes; 30% experienced nausea combined with vomiting; 50% experienced uncontrolled coughing; and 40% have sought medical assistance because of health complications arising from the fumes caused by the landfill.
Because of the generous donations of the community the Nature Foundation has been distributing facemasks through the community in addition to the CBA. For those in need of facemasks can contact the Nature Foundation through their Facebook page or by calling +1 721 5444267. Facemasks can also be bought in hardware stores throughout the island.
Photo caption: Bercvoets and Meijer zu Schlochtern presenting facemasks to CBA staff and students (Kai Latouche/ Kairros photo).