Saving the Rainforest, Safeguarding Siding and Incinerating Garbage

I’ve heard that you can buy the “development rights” to rainforest land in order to protect it. How does one go about that?

—Chris Marlowe, Scotch Plains, NJ

Several environmental organizations sponsor programs that allow the conservation-minded to protect development rights in the rainforest.

The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) Protect an Acre Program donates money collected to local groups, indigenous tribes, human rights or other grassroots organizations, mostly in the Amazon Basin. The grant money is used in a variety of ways, including securing protected areas and land titles, sustainably harvesting medicinal plants and exploring economic alternatives to logging.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Adopt an Acre program centers on South America’s largest wetland, the Pantanal in Brazil, which covers 68,000 square miles. Acres adopted through the program are owned by local conservation organizations, and become parks or protected reserves. The Tropical Rainforest Coalition (TRC) targets its Save an Acre Program to small preserves in Paraguay, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador, Peru, Trinidad and Brazil.

The Rainforest Alliance (RA) program, also called Adopt an Acre, sends donations either to El Salvador’s SalcaNATURA or to Colombia’s Natura Foundation, both respected on-the-ground groups. As RA’s Sarah Obraitus notes, “These organizations don’t just work to create parks that exist only on paper: They take an aggressive approach to their preservation work.”


RA’s Adopt an Acre
Tel: (212) 677-1900

RAN’s Protect an Acre
Tel: (415) 398- 4404

TNC’s Adopt an Acre
Tel: (800) 628-6860

TRC’s Save an Acre

I still have asbestos siding on my house, and I need to know how to remove and dispose of it properly.

—Marian Masters, Bowerston, OH

In some cases, the safest thing to do about asbestos siding may well be nothing at all. Before the 1970s, asbestos was frequently used in schools, homes, factories and public buildings as insulation, shingling and a variety of other uses. Asbestos was popular because of its resistance to corrosion as well as its resistance to fire. Health researchers discovered, however, that asbestos can be inhaled and lodged in lung tissue, where it fosters a variety of lung diseases. But asbestos is only dangerous when the fibers are released into the air. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency points out, “Asbestos containing materials that are in good repair and not being disturbed will not release asbestos fibers. So, the safest, easiest and least expensive option may be to leave it alone.” Remember, though, that asbestos left in place will need to be periodically monitored for deterioration.

If you’ve decided to remove asbestos siding, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends hiring a professional. In choosing a company, it’s important to ask for references from past customers. And be sure to ask where the removed material is going, because safe disposal of the asbestos is still your responsibility. It must be taken to a landfill approved by federal, state and local authorities to accept asbestos.


Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Tel. (703) 237-2249

We recently moved to a community where routine outdoor burning of leaves and trash is very irritating to my throat. Are there health hazards associated with this practice?

—Marsha Iddings, Clarkston, WA

Outdoor burning releases high concentrations of carcinogens, particulates, carbon-monoxide and many other toxins. According to a study by the American Lung Association, residential wood burning and outdoor burning constitutes 16 percent of air pollution in Washington State, where our irritated correspondent lives. A recent EPA study found that household trash burned in a single backyard barrel releases more dioxins, furans and other pollutants than tons of garbage burned by a municipal waste incinerator serving thousands.

Those most at risk from outdoor burning are children, elderly and people suffering from cardiopulmonary diseases. The weather also plays a role in the dangers of outdoor burning. On cold and still days, emissions from outdoor burning can become trapped close to the ground. Very windy conditions and extremely warm weather increase the dangers associated with backyard burning as well.

You may also want to check your local statutes. Burning trash is illegal in many parts of the United States. For example, in Washington and Ohio it is against the law in communities with a population greater than 10,000. According to Ann Brown of the EPA’s public affairs office, most permitted burning occurs in rural areas.

An advocacy group, Burning Issues, is now working throughout the country to reduce outdoor burning and educate people about the health hazards. Founder Mary Rosenberg says that under some conditions, 70 percent of airborne burned particles can get inside your home. That percentage can be reduced by adding insulation and sealing drafts.