Forest fires not only cause of harmful wood smoke

Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Lethbridge Herald (  Letters – September 18, 2010

Forest fire smoke from B.C. this summer prompted Alberta officials to issue advisories about the adverse effects of wood smoke on human health.  Yet some Lethbridge residents can, to varying degrees, experience conditions similar to those that prompted warnings from the province, from wood smoke right in their own neighbourhoods.

When you think of children being put at risk for lung and breathing problems by wood fire pit usage near their home, or consider how people with allergies, asthma, or other health concerns can be made ill by wood stove and wood fireplace emissions, the smell of residential wood smoke is not a welcome one.  Even for adults with healthy lungs or those not sensitive to wood smoke, why should anyone have to breathe smoky air or fumes because of someone’s choice to burn wood on a city block?

Wood burning in a fireplace.

Wood burning in a fireplace. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In cities like Hamilton and Kelowna, outdoor wood burning is not permitted on small residential lots.  Indoor wood burning is also the subject of restrictions and bans in places like California.  A 2008 bylaw in Hampstead, Quebec, prohibits the installation of new wood-burning appliances, and requires the removal of existing ones by November 2015.

Although forest fires do sometimes occur, residential wood-burning is something we can prevent.  I believe that, just as restaurants and other public buildings were greatly improved by bans on cigarette smoking, our beautiful city would be even better and more healthy with a clean-air bylaw that would help make all our neighbourhoods wood smoke-free.