Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Calgary Herald ( Letters – May 26, 2014

Re: “Season of misery starts again with firepits,” Letter, May 23.

Wood smoke contains over 100 toxic substances, including large amounts of lung-damaging particulate matter. Last year, California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District found that smoke from an average evening’s firepit can produce particulate at a rate per minute equal to the secondhand smoke of 800 cigarettes.

Wood smoke is not just an annoying nuisance; it is a serious health risk. When wood smoke is in the air, cancer is in the air. In October 2013, the World Health Organization announced that particulate matter is a Group 1 human carcinogen, now in the same category as other cancer causing agents like asbestos and tobacco smoke. How much asbestos is safe to breathe? How much tobacco smoke is healthy?

It is past time that all Alberta municipalities stopped allowing unnecessary outdoor wood burning — as many places already do — to protect air quality, public safety and public health.


Video: “Europeans not safe from urban air pollution cancer threat, WHO confirms”

In the above Euronews video on the IARC’s announcement about cancer and air pollution, the narration beginning at 00:59 explains:  

“Particulate Matter is a major component. PM of a ten micron diameter is the sort that blackens buildings. PM of 2.5 microns or smaller goes through respiratory passages and is small enough to enter the blood system. This material comes from wood smoke, burning diesel and factory output.”