Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Lethbridge Herald (lethbridgeherald.com) Letters – November 11, 2010
The adverse impacts of wood-burning pollution are becoming matters of international attention. Through increased public awareness, legislation, and even financial incentive initiatives, such as Washington’s Puget Sound region began this fall, many places now strongly encourage residents who desire a fire indoors or outside, to consider cleaner, non-wood options.
Yet remarkably, the use of wood fireplaces and fire pits, restricted or banned in some cities, is actually promoted in the Fall/Winter issue of City Excellence.
Despite the pro-wood burning message of the city newsletter’s page 5 article, the burning of even clean, dry wood is in fact a serious environmental and public health issue in tightly packed neighbourhoods. It emits large amounts of fine particle pollution and is especially harmful for babies, children, the elderly, and people with conditions like asthma. And wood smoke pollution can increase exponentially as multiple residents choose to burn wood, since even a new wood stove emits considerably more particulate matter than a natural gas or even an oil furnace.
If some wish to have an outdoor wood fire, why not use a non-residential campfire site? This can spare our city air, and the comfort and lung health of neighbours, as can less polluting alternatives to wood fireplaces and wood stoves. Although wood smoke does not stop at property lines, all people really do deserve the right to breathe unpolluted air, and this truth is something more public officials now recognize.
Much more than a fire safety or civic nuisance issue, wood-burning pollution is an important concern for many environmentalists and for physicians, including Dr. David Pepper of California and Dr. James Markos of The Australian Lung Foundation. The work of scientists like Mark Jacobson of Stanford University also raises concerns about the production of soot worldwide, as both a health issue and a major factor in climate change.
When can Lethbridge residents look forward to seeing current wood smoke information in relevant city webpages and publications? When will our city have effective wood-burning bylaws that will help preserve our air, and protect people from unwanted smoke?
By preventing unnecessary wood-burning pollution, Lethbridge could make a significant positive difference for the environment, while helping to ensure that all Lethbridge citizens, from the oldest to the youngest, can have clean, safe air to breathe.
Video: “Woodsmoke Pollution and Your Health” featuring Dr. James Markos, MD, spokesperson for the Australian Lung Foundation