Wood fires? Ban them, says health group

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Wood fires? Ban them, says health group

Postby Wilberforce » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:45 pm

Wood fires? Ban them, says health group
By Lisa Kaczke on September 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Take Back the Air wants the city to ban all outdoor recreational wood burning to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The group argues in a letter sent to the Edina City Council by attorney Gale Mellum on behalf of the group, that wood smoke affects Edina residents with asthma and other breathing problems to the point where they cannot be outdoors.

Mayor Jim Hovland said he doesn’t believe the claims of adverse health effects due to outdoor wood smoke in the city rise to the level of being covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Edina resident Julie Mellum of Take Back the Air said the city has the responsibility for removing all barriers for residents to use public spaces under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Wood smoke is in your face more than any of us realize,” she said. She began to research it when she became sick from wood smoke. She walked around the Edinborough Park area, but the smoke coming from the wood fires in restaurants in the area caused her to have to stop walking there, she said.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency states that breathing in air that has wood smoke can irritate the eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses; reduce lung function; increase the severity of existing lung diseases; and increase the risk of heart attacks.

The MPCA recommends residents who burn wood to build only small, hot fires with dry, seasoned wood to reduce the risks. It states on its website in bold writing, “Always be considerate of family members and neighbors who may have asthma, lung or heart problems.”

Mellum said she was upset to read about the effects of wood smoke on children. The MPCA states that lung function in young children is especially affected by wood smoke.

“I would like children, who don’t have a voice, to breath clean air … They’re our most vulnerable population,” she said.

In addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the letter states the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act can be used to “require Edina to improve the air quality within the city.”

The Environmental Rights Act states residents are “entitled by right to the protection, preservation, and enhancement of air, water, land and other natural resources” and lawsuits can be filed to “protect the environment from pollution, impairment or destruction,” the letter states.

“Please be informed that if Edina does not address outdoor wood burning regulation in the near future, individual or collective lawsuits could be brought against the city for not protecting public health, citizens’ property rights and everyone’s right to access public spaces,” the letter states.

Mellum said it’s “discriminatory to not be able to use public areas.” The group is working to educate several suburbs and Minneapolis about wood smoke, she said.

The group is also requesting the city remove its outdoor woodburning fireplace at the Centrum Building at Centennial Lakes Park.

Hovland stated that he doesn’t believe the city council is interested in removing the outdoor fireplace and pointed out that the letter didn’t trigger any discussion at the council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 19. City Manager Scott Neal confirmed that no plans are in the works to change the outdoor wood fireplace at Centennial Lakes.

The council converted the indoor wood fireplaces to gas at the building after health concerns were raised about wood smoke affecting people indoors, he said. However, with outdoor wood fires, the data is less persuasive, he said.

“Folks in town love using their outdoor fireplaces and fire pits,” he said. He added that it’s a situation where residents need to be good neighbors and be aware of where the smoke from their wood fires is blowing.

Edina Fire Department’s recreational fire permit states that neighbors should be notified about recreational fires and the wind should be blowing away from nearby residences.

However, Take Back the Air claims that isn’t happening.

“Fire department and other city workers are often reluctant to help citizens who complain of wood smoke. This pits neighbor against neighbor and often results in harassment of neighbors who complain,” the letter states.

A MPCA task force is currently looking at the effect wood smoke has on the state’s air quality, which can affect Minnesota’s ability to receive federal funding. The city council is watching to see what conclusions the task force reaches, Hovland said.

http://current.mnsun.com/2012/09/wood-f ... lth-group/
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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