Monday, February 28, 2011

Diseases Caused by Landfills

Many people may think that landfills do not cause harm to people that do not come in direct contact with them, but they are wrong. Landfills can cause many different diseases and health problems that we may not even know relate. As learned previously, the leachette systems do not hold toxic waste in for long periods of time, allowing toxins to seep in the soil and water. Some of the diseases that can be cause by this action are cancer, kindney and liver disease, brain and nerve damage, malaria, cholera, and dysentry ( Different chemicals in waste cause different diseases. For example, if the soil was contaminated with lead, a person that comes in contact with that soil can acquire kidney or liver disease. Soil contaminated with pesticides or weed killers may cause all types of cancer. It is not just the soil that is affected, but the water as well as it seeps through the soil into the citys water system (

Although it has yet to be confirmed, in the city of Greensboro, NC, their have been significantly higher reports of pancreatic cancer cases near the towns landfill then in any other surrounding city in the state. They also believe that it is from toxins leaking into the soil and into the water supply (Lehmert, Amanda).

E., Jenny, Diseases Caused by Soil Pollution, 3/12/2010.

Lehmert, Amanda, Cancer Cases Higher Near Landfill. 11/13/2009.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Effects of over-population on landfills

When you think about landfills and the increasing number of people living on this Earth today, it almost seems obvious that the amount of garbage thrown away a year would increase. Not only does it effect the amount of space to throw away trash, but it is also effecting our water quality in the long run. As mentioned previously, landfills have plastic liners that keeps the trash together. The only bad thing about those liners is that they do not last forever. Even landfills that have double liners begin to leak toxins in the soil which eventually gets into the ground water (Laura Ross, In 1988, there was a study done that showed that in 5 years, any available land space in Ohio would have to be used as a landfill because the increasing amount of trash. Thanks to the State Legislature, this did not happen because they passed laws to limit the amount of trash that they were using. Although the plan worked for the last 22 years, it is unknown what will happen in the future with the increasing population ( If each state starts reaching their max capacity to store trash, there would be a crisis, and as mentioned before, the more trash the weaker the leachete system. More and more toxic materials would get into our water system, causing a large unhealthy human population and a vanishing animal mass.

Jay Johansen , The Landfill Crisis. 9/10/2000.

Ross, Laura,, Environmental Problems Due To Overpopulation . 4/15/2010.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Landfill Scavengers

Many animals make their homes in landfills, adapting to the living conditions that come along with it. From birds, to rats, raccoons, and even bears; they all feast and make a living in local landfills. Lately, there are many stories in the news around the United States of people abandoning domestic animals, such as cats in landfills. Although scavengers can live off one, cats can not. They have critical limits that make the condtions unlivable (

As you can imagine, there is tons of food for scavenger animals to feast off of, so none of the species are getting starved due to more aggresive animals. It is very common to see a "food web" present in a landfill; some call it the circle of life. Many ants, worms, and other insects live in them. In warmer climates, reptiles may be present, feeding off of these small insects. The birds eat the insects and reptiles, and larger animals such as raccoons, coyotes, bears, etc, eat small rodents, and insects. When any of these animals die, the insects feast off of the carcus ( It is more common for rodents such as rats and mice to be present in inactive landfills than active ones, due to the constant activity and movement., Shelter accused of leaving live animals in landfill, December 29, 2010.

Priddy, Brenda, The food web of organisms found in a landfill site. July 23, 2010.,56cd6b31&icp=1&.intl=us&sig=pAoV6KruzM_aitU0_FHOCg

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thermodynamics and Landfills

Also, a big problem landfills face are the consequences of lack of energy (sunlight and oxygen) in a landfill. Enzymes and microbes are the living organisms that break down waste, and without oxygen, it is an extremely long and hard process to break down or biodegrade that waste (Earth Talk online magazine). Just as seeds need sunlight and oxygen to bloom into a plant, waste needs that same enegry to decompose. Which is why there are waste products that have been sitting in landfills for thousands of years. Also, the process used to create certain things may slow the process down too, making it almost impossible to biodegrade. They form into something that is unrecongnizable, and with the low amount of soil in landfills, they may likely sit there forever. If only we could get everyone to sort their trash, they may be able to make a process that is more effective. Meaning putting things together that are easily broken down such as food, and things that take longer, such as plastic together in seperate landfills that have different approaches. Some landfills are starting to find ways to add oxygen, water and sunlight to help speed up the process but this is pricey and not likely to catch on ( Earth Talk online magazine).

There is a higher chance that if you were to bury your garbage in your backyard, that something might grow out of it, but since landfills are so compacted, it would just sit there for years as previously mentioned. Just like the process of photosynthesis, even garbage needs energy from sunlight and bacteria from the soil to grow into something else or to biodegrade. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants, some bacteria, and some protistans use the energy from sunlight to produce sugar, which cellular respiration converts into ATP, the "fuel" used by all living things. The conversion of unusable sunlight energy into usable chemical energy, is associated with the actions of the green pigment chlorophyll. Most of the time, the photosynthetic process uses water and releases the oxygen that we absolutely must have to stay alive ( Although biodegrading waste is not exactly the same process as plant growth, it still uses some of the same concepts and needs some of the same energy to change into a different form.

Larry West, Do Biodegradable Items Really Break Down in Landfills?

Life: The Science of Biology, 4th Edition, by Sinauer Associates ( and WH Freeman (,