Because wood burns in an oxygen starved atmosphere the organic chemistry involved is much more complex than in a fireplace. This results in a greater variety of organic chemicals being produced.

This is the most important slide in the show. The number of deaths attributed to particulate pollution exceeds the number of deaths from important cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer and exceeds the deaths occurring in auto accidents by more than 50%. The 1994 Symposium on Mortality and Morbidity of Particulate Pollution at UC Irvine was essentially a debate of this assertion and a consensus opinion supporting this result by Joel Swartz emerged.


A surprisingly large portion of the population is at risk (50%)-- not just people who are aware of respiratory problems. Just think of those small retirement condos huddled together, each with its own wood burning fireplace.

A brief list of health problems caused or aggravated by wood smoke.

This reviews the standards in place. Notice that the California State standards are much more stringent than the federal standards. The EPA is currently reviewing the Federal standards. It is felt that the Federal standards are much too loose. California does little to enforce its own standards.

Real-time monitoring of particulate density on a bad day. This monitoring was done in an residential neighborhood of Los Altos, CA, an affuent area in the San Francisco Bay Area, miles away from any industrial source. It is the type of suburb that people flock to so that their children can have all the advantages.

Only two days later the air was much better. This shows that good air is possible and we should be demanding it. It also shows the effect that a few burners can have on their neighbors. Regulatory agencies work with the average conditions over a large area while a wood burner pollutes his immediate neighbors. Thus one block will be really dangerous, while a mile away or even closer the air will be clean. Thus when the regulators call attention to the problem, as they do in the Bay Area by invoking the "Don't Lite Tonight" things will really be bad in neighborhoods with burners. Even then they condone further burning in EPA-Approved stoves.

This slide illustrates that the air really deteriorates at night. This was a Thursday night. Residential wood smoke is a dangerous form of air pollution which is not related to automobiles or industry; in the words of the comic strip character "We have met the enemy and they are us!"

Here is information from Joel Swartz and it shows that reactions can be severe to even brief episodes of particulate pollution. It explains why people suffering from illness or recovering from a health episode such as an accident or operation are particularly vulnerable. Think of your vulnerability if you happen to live next to an habitual wood burner.

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