Wood burning damages public health

Letter by Cathy Baiton, Printed in the Lethbridge Herald | lethbridgeherald.com  – Letters, May 13, 2017

Wood burning damages public health

foot-vidIt’s disappointing to see a smoky wood-pellet grill advertised in the current issue of a local magazine – especially since the edition focuses on the theme of environmental sustainability. Air pollution is not sustainable. Instead, it degrades air quality, hurts the health of people and even shortens lives, lowers quality of life in neighbourhoods and communities, and worsens climate change. In addition, a growing demand for wood pellets is contributing to global deforestation.



“Walkers make their way between tree stumps and open ground along what used to be a forest path at Bickerton Hill.” This quote and the image above are from a June 2015 Daily Mail Online article by David Rose entitled, “Where have our woods gone?  Up in smoke –  as the new trendy ‘green’ wood-burning stoves and boilers (funded by tax millions) are being fuelled by birches and oaks…leaving swathes of Britain barren.”   — Stoves fuelled by birches and oaks are leaving swathes of Britain barren | Daily Mail Online


Many people have no idea how destructive the whole wood-burning industry’s impact on the environment and public health actually is. And most, if not all, wood-burning retailers never disclose fully the harmful impacts of their smoke-producing, cancer-causing products. Those products should not be legal in any neighbourhood environment, where everyone shares the air. Any that are sold should have to be labelled with the same graphic health warnings that appear on cigarette packages.

Perhaps the majority of wood-burning industry members are not fully aware of their industry’s adverse effects. If they were, how many could in good conscience continue marketing any wood- or pellet-burning product? Why do any wood-burning products even continue to be used at all, when it’s now known that air pollution and particulate matter are Group 1 carcinogens, and a major environmental cause of cancer deaths worldwide?

When will true positive change begin to happen? The much-needed positive change requires increased public awareness of the importance of clean air for all, and it requires a new paradigm for public policy decision-making, which must include a move away from the burning of trees.

A recentWorld Health Organization (WHO) publication emphasizes that protecting health should always be paramount in public policy, and that we need clean energy and clean fuels:

Less wood, diesel, coal.”