Stand up for the right to breathe clean air

Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Lethbridge Herald ( Letters – October 11, 2014

A thoughtful Oct. 6 Roast mentions the poor arguments often used to defend outdoor wood burning in neighbourhoods. There is no logical way to defend an inherently unjust – even brutal – bylaw that allows someone to hurt the health of others by making a selfish choice.

I know a Lethbridge senior who experiences chest pain, dizziness and other troubling symptoms whenever wood burning fumes are polluting her northside neighbourhood. On a recent evening walk, my son and I noticed how the smell of wood smoke in the air was especially strong near the Fleetwood Bawden school – though, of course, not a single cigarette is permitted to be lit on or near the playground. A couple of weeks ago, a London Road resident was justifiably angry about having unhealthy campfire smoke in his bedroom. Really, isn’t forcing people to breathe any amount of unwanted smoke a form of bullying? In 2014, why is it still considered at all acceptable in any neighbourhood environment?

And what about the harmful gases and cancer-causing fine particles coming into the room of a sleeping infant or growing child? Why does that serious problem not motivate our mayor and city officials to work toward putting a stop to wood burning in residential areas, beginning with needless outdoor wood burning?

The air belongs to everyone and – in our own and other communities – it is time for those who wish to burn wood to save wood fires for times when they are camping or in rural areas, far from other homes and shared outdoor spaces. It’s time for elected officials to help make sure that happens. It’s also time for caring health professionals and public health authorities to help raise more awareness about the health effects of wood smoke. It’s time for citizens to stand up for an essential human right that should be guaranteed to every person at all times, equally and without qualification: the right to breathe clean air.

Image source: Public domain - via Wikimedia Commons

Image source: Public domain – via Wikimedia Commons