Wood burning is not a good solution

Image source: The American Lung Association in California

Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Lethbridge Herald (lethbridgeherald.com) Letters –January 14, 2014

A Jan. 6 Roast criticizes “people screaming to get rid of wood-burning fireplaces/pits,” and adds, “If the ice storm that hit Ontario hit us and knocked out the power, what would they suggest we use instead to stay warm?”

In Greece many have turned to burning wood due to high fuel costs. The resulting smog has created a severe public health hazard. After the 1998 ice storm, increased wood burning became a serious particle pollution problem for Montreal. That city banned new wood stove installations in 2009 – and now plans to prohibit all wood burning stove and fireplace use by the end of 2020.*

Clearly, wood combustion in urban areas is no solution. Those who have suffered due to smoke from a neighbour’s EPA-certified stove know this fact all too well.

Particulate matter (PM) – a major component of wood smoke – has been identified by the World Health Organization as a serious environmental health concern. It’s also a cancer risk. On Oct. 17, 2013, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that outdoor air pollution and particulate matter are known human carcinogens. http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/urban-health/news/news/2013/10/outdoor-air-pollution-a-leading-environmental-cause-of-cancer-deaths

According to Environment Canada, “residential wood heating is the greatest single source of particulate matter in Canada.” (http://www.ec.gc.ca/residentiel-residential/default.asp?lang=En&n=CBDF7574-1)

With PM now in the same category (Group 1) as carcinogens like asbestos, formaldehyde and tobacco smoke, we would do well to consider why urban burning bans are beneficial and essential. If the writer of the above-mentioned Roast were to begin researching authoritative sources by Googling terms like “wood smoke health effects,” or “wood smoke PM,” he or she might understand why public awareness and laws to help protect people are needed.

Cathy Baiton

* Video:  “Montreal to ban wood stoves” – News – CBC Player