Smoke Free Halloween to Protect Childrenby Jamie Casebar, 2001
Soon the fall air will be growing crisp and folks will be thinking how it would be to build a nice cozy fire in the fireplace or wood stove. And before we know it, Halloween will be upon us and all the excited kids will be out with their costumes going house to house trick-or-treating. But whatís wrong with this picture? It is that kids that are outside trick-or-treating on chilly Halloween Night are likely to be inhaling doses of particulate pollution coming from residential fireplaces and wood stoves.
It is a well known fact that once the tiny particles that comprise wood smoke are breathed in, they lodge deep within the lung tissue and cannot be expelled. Asthma attacks are triggered by breathing air pollution. Every mother of an asthmatic child knows how devastating an asthma attack can be. Childhood asthma in the U.S. is approaching epidemic proportions. According to a survey by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one child in seven has been diagnosed with asthma. In the last ten years the number of children suffering from asthma has doubled.
Healthy or not, we wouldnít allow our little ones to smoke cigarettes. But cigarette smoke and wood smoke are very similar in both the chemical components and the size of the particulate matter in them. For more information on how to reduce or eliminate wood smoke pollution, residents can call the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, (BAAQMD) at 1-415-749-4900 and ask for a copy of the Woodburning Handbook.
Donít we owe it to our children to leave off the burning for that one night of the year that is so special to them? And parents, wouldnít it be a good idea to provide good filter masks for kids to wear under their Halloween masks to protect them and their lungs from being damaged by breathing wood smoke? According to 3M, with a good fit, even the kind of N95 or R95 paper masks that can be purchased at any local hardware store for less than $1.50 will filter particles down to .3 micron in size.
For more information regarding the health effects of breathing wood smoke, please check burning issues.org on the world wide web.
Jami Caseber for Citizens Opposing a Polluted Environment (COPE)