California’s South Coast AQMD needs to help stop beach fire pit pollution

California’s South Coast AQMD (Air Quality Management District) will soon be voting on an amendment to its Rule 444 regarding the restriction of open wood fires on public beaches.  Hopefully, the AQMD will act with courage, wisdom, and integrity to to help clear this avoidable source of harmful particulate emissions from California’s air as soon as possible.

Below is a letter that I sent to the South Coast AQMD Board about the upcoming vote on Rule 444:

Dear Members of the South Coast AQMD Board,

As the South Coast Air Quality Management District is entrusted with the vital task of protecting optimal air quality for improved public health, I hope that you will vote in favour of amending Rule 444 to restrict wood burning beach fire pits. Not only will your decision have a significant impact on air quality in your agency’s jurisdiction, but your anticipated ruling is also of great concern to people who care about the issue of wood smoke pollution throughout California, the United States, and beyond. I sincerely hope that your unanimous choice will be aimed at achieving the cleanest air possible. The American Lung Association officially recommends avoiding burning wood wherever less polluting fuels are available. Surely the South Coast AQMD holds to the same position.

I believe that the numbers of emails and comments in favour of keeping the fire pits versus the number against should not determine the AQMD’s decision. Concerned citizens are trusting that your agency will instead base its decision on the scientific facts about the risks posed to human health and the environment by emissions of fine particulate matter, a potentially lethal outdoor air pollutant.

Most of the opponents of removing the beach fire pits, or of the very reasonable proposal to replace them with fire rings using cleaner, non-wood fuels, are either uninformed, or are unconcerned about the established health and environmental impacts of unnecessary outdoor wood burning. Fire pit users can easily switch to a cleaner source of fuel. But no one should ever be asked to compromise about the air that they and their families have to breathe.

The air belongs to everyone in common, and no one has the right to pollute the air that others are breathing. Each person deserves the right and the basic human dignity of being able to breathe healthy air.

Accordingly, I hope that the South Coast AQMD board’s decision will help bring an end to continued outdoor wood burning pollution on California’s beautiful beach areas – for the enjoyment and the safety of all community members who live or work nearby, as well as the many visitors of all ages and states of health who visit the beaches.

Please vote to restrict outdoor wood burning in the interests of public health, so that all people can enjoy equal access to smoke-free air, on and around the public beaches within the jurisdiction of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Thank you,

Cathy Baiton
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

More information on this issue can be found at WoodSmokeHealth:  Advocates for Clean Air