Wood-burning stoves pose risks

Discussion on health consequences of air particulates

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Wood-burning stoves pose risks

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Mar 03, 2018 5:08 pm

DEEP: Wood-burning stoves pose risks

By Jim Shay Feb 27, 2018 (…)

If you are using firewood to heat your home, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is reminding residents to burn only dry seasoned wood.

“Many Connecticut residents burn wood to heat their homes, but it also creates air pollution,” DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee said in a release Wednesday.

“Burning wood efficiently saves money and will let you and your neighbors breathe a little easier. On windy days, wood smoke pollution from your wood burning device can also negatively impact your neighbors without your knowledge so please be a good neighbor and be Air Aware,” he said.

The wood should be seasoned and has been split and dried for at least six months, and avoid allowing fires to smolder.

DEEP says wood burning in fireplaces and woodstoves is the largest source of particle pollution generated by residential sources during the winter.

The cold and still winter weather conditions can cause wood smoke pollution to become trapped close to the ground and build up to unhealthy air quality levels, making it difficult for those with respiratory conditions to breathe.

Wood smoke affects everyone, but children, teenagers, older adults, people with lung disease, including asthma and COPD and/or people with heart diseases are the most vulnerable.

“The smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contain tiny particles that can linger in the air and are so small that the bodies’ natural defenses cannot filter them out. Breathing these small particles can cause asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, aggravate heart and lung disease, and may increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses,” DEEP said in the release.

“Some studies also suggest that long-term exposure to particle pollution can be linked to cancer, and harmful developmental and reproductive effects such as infant mortality and low birth weights.”

Residents should check that their wood stoves and fireplaces are EPA-certified and be aware that burning wet wood is an inefficient means of heating your home because most of the energy goes towards drying the wood, not heating your home.

Quality, well-seasoned firewood will also help your wood stove or fireplace burn cleaner and more efficiently, while green or wet wood can cause smoking problems, odor problems, rapid creosote buildup and possibly even dangerous chimney fires.

Visit DEEP’s Woodstove webpage to find additional tips for cleaner wood burning.

http://www.ctpostchronicle.com/news/dee ... 1f8c1.html


After a wildfire, who pays to clean smoky indoor air?

As dense smoke from regional wildfires spread through communities across western Montana last summer, public health agencies faced an indoor problem, too: Residents suddenly needed filters to clean the air inside homes and public spaces, but there was no obvious funding source to pay for it.

Ellen Leahy, the health officer in charge of the Missoula City-County Health Department, says in the past, when wildfire smoke polluted the air outside, nobody really talked about air filters.

"We'd always told people to go indoors, thinking the air might be a little better," Leahy says. "Well that was not necessarily true anymore." The size and proximity of fires, coupled with weather trends and local topography, led to an inversion layer of dirty air that hung around communities for weeks on end. Without air filtration systems, it invaded indoor spaces too.

Wildfire smoke is bad for everybody, but especially older people and those with chronic heart and lung diseases. Joy and Don Dunagan, who live in Seeley Lake, Mont., check both those boxes.

"We put towels around the doors, the windows — everything," Joy says. "It's not dirt. Grime from the smoke came in through the whole house."

They're both 69 years old, and on oxygen a lot of the time. Joy is a survivor of stroke. And Don recently developed asbestosis after almost 40 years of work in an aluminum factory.

"I've got less than 50 percent breathing capacity right now," he says. "Anything that I could have done a year ago, I can't do now. And then that smoke on top of it — it was killing me."

But with no family in the state and limited mobility, the couple had to stay inside their house all summer. So Amy Cilimburg, who directs a small nonprofit called Climate Smart Missoula, helped the Dunagans get a HEPA air filter and make a safe air space inside their home. On the day I visit, she's installing a second filter in their living room.

"It's the same filter, so it works the same way," Cilimburg explains.

The unit resembles a space heater, but can actually scrub out the fine particulates in wood smoke that are so hazardous to health.

"There's a prefilter that takes out the large stuff, and then — that's the HEPA filter," Cilimburg says, pointing to another part of the device. "So you want to make sure that one's in there."

In early 2017, Missoula County's Health Department launched a pilot program with Climate Smart to get HEPA air filters to homebound seniors in Missoula ahead of the fire season. But when wildfire smoke swamped Seeley Lake last summer, they also started to distribute filters to residents who have a high risk of developing breathing problems and other health issues related to smoke pollution. Local health providers helped identify those people, including the Dunagans.

Don says he slept in his recliner, near the air filter, every single night while the smoke was bad.

"I believe that machine saved my life," he says. "I really do."

Then the wildfires dragged on into the school year. And kids, who are also extra susceptible to the pollutants because their lungs are still developing, sat in smoke-filled classrooms across the county.

Missoula County's health department and Climate Smart scrambled to get air filters to the schools most deeply enveloped by smoke. Other nonprofits pitched in to raise money and buy filters too. Almost overnight, the smoky haze inside classrooms disappeared.

The county health department's Leahy says that strategy of finding a solution and taking action was a big shift away from the agency's usual approach of issuing advisories to people to hunker down and stay indoors. And they need to keep acting, she says.

"There has to be a more concerted effort — which we are a part of — to provide clean, indoor air. Filtered indoor air. Messaging that the air isn't good — isn't enough," Leahy says. "And that we have to plan to be able to do that, and deploy those systems much more quickly, as you would in an emergency."

The challenge is figuring out who pays for it.

Portable HEPA air filters that can clean a big room cost just under $200 each. Even with a bulk discount, it cost about $30,000 to put those kinds of filters in just three of the 50 schools in the county last fire season. That didn't even cover every classroom or grade, Leahy says.

Nor are individual filters necessarily the most efficient solution for schools and other big buildings — like daycare centers, nursing homes or health clinics — says Missoula county air quality specialist Sarah Coefield. It's virtually impossible, Coefield says, to put a price tag on what it would cost to filter the air in every public space in the county.

"It would be a very high number, and I haven't even wrapped my head around it," she says.

Missoula County has one of the biggest and most experienced air quality programs in the state, but the health department was not equipped to launch response on a large scale, Leahy says.

The health department is set up to regulate easily controlled, man-made sources of air pollution — such as factories or wood stoves — and to issue health advisories. The money the county contributed at the last minute to buy filters came from emergency funds, which quickly dried up.

Health officer Leahy says they all tried their best to respond to the need.

"But it was very — it was creative," she says. "I would say makeshift."

Scientists predict wildfires are going to get worse, so public health departments are starting to see a need for a more proactive approach. That's going to require still more creativity, says Leahy.

"There's not a new source of funding that we're aware of," she says, "that can say, 'Well, how can we at the local level try to help people with exposure to wildfire smoke in the same way that we at the local level try to do on wood stoves?' There's not a [funding] pathway for us to do that, at this time."

The state health department is in a similar bind. Currently, they have no resources specifically dedicated to protecting the public from wildfire smoke.

"I don't anticipate that there's going to be a lot of new monies coming," says Jim Murphy, the chief of the communicable disease bureau at Montana's Department of Public Health & Human Services. "Given the state's budget crisis, I think it's maybe making the best of what we already have."

Cilimburg of Climate Smart says she's proud of Missoula's leadership and of the community's efforts to step up. But she stresses that wildfire seasons are getting longer and more intense — the smoke will come back.

"Providing some money up front can save you money down the road," Cilimburg says. "And we're just not very good sometimes at thinking about it. We're good at responding to disasters, and not as good as being prepared for them up front. That's kind of the conversations we'd like to spark."

For now, the county health department will continue to partner with Climate Smart. This winter, they're busy building on the foundation they established over the summer — spreading the word about the usefulness of air filters and the message that clean air is a collective responsibility.

The program has a cache of about 100 filters to help those in need. And they're working with larger public institutions, like school districts, to help them improve their air filtration systems — and encouraging them to add such systems to their own budgets.

Dunagan says the responsibility is also on everyone who lives in the area to acknowledge the risks of living with wildfire, and to create their own clean-air space.

"A lot of people don't realize what that smoke will do to you," Dunagan says. "You might tough it out now, but if you go long enough, you're going to have breathing problems."

This story is part of NPR's reporting partnership with Montana Public Radio and Kaiser Health News.
Copyright 2018 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

http://www.scpr.org/news/2018/02/25/811 ... indoor-ai/
Lecture: "Wildfire Implications for Firefighter and Community Health"
Tuesday, March 6th, 2018 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
University Center Theater

Dr. Paul Smith will speak on the effects of wood smoke on public health, with a specific focus on particulate matter, as it is the easiest component to track and relate to disease. His talk will stress the effects on vulnerable populations, the mechanisms of disease and gaps in our present knowledge. The lecture also will examine recent smoke events in Montana and directions for disease prevention.

http://missoula.com/events/health-fitne ... 70127.html
• 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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