All communities must act to stop wood smoke pollution


Image source:   UC Davis Health System: Air pollution linked to bronchitis in preschoolers

Other cities taking action against wood smoke

Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Lethbridge Herald (  Letters – January 8, 2011

Mr. Pushor (Nov. 24) and Mr. Forster (Dec. 18), have criticized the idea that the city should ensure everyone’s right to breathe fresh, wood smoke-free air, in and around their own homes. But as Robert Smith’s Dec. 4 letter points out, “It is a public health issue, just like smoking.”

Dr. Mark Miller of Chico, California, in a news article on residential wood smoke, suggests that people should care about air quality, “because this is what a community does. They consider the health of everyone.” – “Doctor knows firsthand the effects of smoke on lungs” (California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting) 

Numerous government, health, and air-quality organizations, including the Lung Association, explain that wood smoke contains harmful pollutants like fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans, formaldehyde and acrolein. Even with air filters and closed windows, it can make the air seriously unhealthy, in the backyards, living rooms, and children’s bedrooms, of nearby tobacco smoke-free homes.

An Internet search can also explain why some places have begun taking action. In the Wood Burning section of its official website, the City of Fort Collins, Colorado, informs citizens: “The city recommends that you avoid using your fireplace or wood stove to protect the health of yourself and your neighbors.”

The city of Elmira, New York, is an example of places that protect the health and safety of residents, by prohibiting fire pits that are wood burning.

Residents of some California counties were asked to avoid burning wood this past Christmas, in order “to give the gift of clean air.” – “Please don’t burn wood this weekend, Bay Area air quality officials advise” (Mercury News) 

In 2009, Montreal banned new installations of wood stoves. I’d like to suggest that a bylaw like this could be, along with a ban on the recreational pollution of outdoor burning, an achievable way for our own city to prevent added smoke emissions, while aiming further to provide equally full protection for all Lethbridge residents.

Hampstead, Que., set a high standard in 2008, with a strong bylaw banning wood-burning appliances. The town’s mayor, William Steinberg, has expressed confidence that other communities will follow Hampstead’s lead. – “Hampstead ban a burning issue–and a good call” (The Telegram)

I remain hopeful that Lethbridge will become a leader on this issue, too.