Page 1 of 1

Q How much PM2.5 (mcg) is put out from one fireplace chimney

PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 12:56 pm
by turning_blue
Can someone explain this in comparison to a wood stove?

Also, how much more carcinogens are produced by these EPA stoves? For instance, I read more dioxin is created and released with these EPA wood stoves. How much more?

Pm from fireplaces

PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2008 3:30 pm
by Ernest Grolimund
The pm2.5 from old fireplaces is highly variable depending on moisture, air supply, number of logs, species, and operating ability of the burner. That said, Omni Environmental Sercices wrote a report in 2006 for the Mid Atlantic Regional Air Management Association that talked about fireplace emissions and gave an ave burn rate for planning puroses. The Maine DEP library had an article from Environmental Sciece and Technology/ Vol 35 no13, 2001 where they quoted the EPA as saying the ave emissions factor was 17g/kg. The product is about 70 g/hr. This is about 70% of an owb's emissions. Assuming the chimney ht is not a significant factor in an inversion because the particles and toxic gases are heavier than air, then a fireplace creates about .7 x 42 mcg/c.m., or 30 mcg/c.m. which is enough to cause asthma attacks and heart attacks according to Dr. Brown, noted owb researcher. Richard Grieves of the Maine DEP reviewed this estimate in 2008 and said it was a good estimate (not exact, but good). Brown's work is recognized by the Am Lung., EPA, state of Conn. and most scientific researchers. 35 mcg/c.m. for 24 hrs is the EPA standard. Unfortuneately, most users only burn for 12 hrs so the ave pm2.5 is 15mcg/c.m. although it can cause asthma attacks. Absurdly, it is legal to kill ( exagerating to make a point). But it is a health nuisance to make people sick even if it passes the ambient air standards. It is more than a nuisance as nuisance implies a minor annoyance but this is the legal term used. My source: Maine DEP books I was allowed to read by the head of the air toxics department. Few people ever see this. I checked this estimate by an obtuse method that only an estimator could imagine but it checked and I had Richard Grieves of the Maine DEP check my calc's and assumptions. He agreed my estimate should be in the ballpark, but this is not official DEP work. Alison Simcox of the Boston office of the EPA said my estimates of pollution for boilers, stoves, fireplaces, and chip boilers for schools were in the ball park and very informative. She checked them herself and was amazed. I am not a registered engineer unfortuneately so you cannot use my work in court, but you might get another engineer like Curt Freedman to check this.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2008 3:27 pm
by turning_blue
Thanks so much for the explanation. This is what I need.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:08 pm
by turning_blue
What are ambient air standards? What is ambient air?

Please forgive these questions. I do want to learn this and perhaps others reading this can learn too.

Thanks again.

Ambient air

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:19 pm
by Ernest Grolimund
Ambient air is the air all around us that now contains a little or a lot of pollution from millions of cars and oil or gas furnaces. The average pm2.5 in Maine a few years ago was 14 mcg/cubic meter. This is below the threshold for asthma attacks, so it is good. However, in a calm wind inversion, the pm2.5 can get up to 30 mcg/cubic meter quite commonly for hours if not all day. This causes asthmatics problems so it is not good. Superimposed on this ubiquitous ambient pm, are many plumes of pollution that form hot spots. I sometimes say that the combination of background pm and local pm from a stove or fireplace is the ambient air around a house. I am still learning about the definitions too. So, you may have to consider the context of a sentance to know what ambient refers to. There are limits to the amount of pollution allowable per ambient air guidelines. They are now 35 mcg/ cubic meter for 24 hr. For decades the states have had to monitor pm at a few locations and they publish the monitor values and average it by certain rules and say that is the ambient air value. These monitors are located to avoid any hot spots to try to find the ave pm over an area. They can be 50' above the ground and often times are put on 2nd floor roofs where they are above the ground hugging air toxics and woodsmoke plumes. They are thus oftentimes below the value of pm around a house.

I have been talking about the combination of ambient pm2.5 and the pm2.5 from a boiler or stove or fireplace in an inversion as 30 mcg from the ambient air and 30 mcg from a fireplace as adding to 60 mcg/cubic meter as a common occurance for hours in tens of thousands of hotspots. Of course there is variability, and it is not proof of what is around my house, but when there are thousands of situations, you talk about averages. For example, I say that there are 4,000 owb's in Maine, so you would expect half to have episodes of 60 mcg particulates, but not one has been declared a nuisance. This indicates a problem. I started working the numbers because I was smoked out and I could not measure it and I wanted some idea of what I was up against using reasonable assumptions. The DEP and I estimated that I was up against 100 mcg of pm2.5 and Dr Brown said 30 mcg for a few hours could cause asthma and heart attacks and because a neighbor had a heart attack and my daughter had an asthma attack and I was an observant engineer, the state listened to me and I was a factor in getting an OWB bill passed. I was not alone as a complainer though.

fireplace pm2.5

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:42 pm
by Ernest Grolimund
Let me try to put all the numbers into laymans terms. In calm winds that last for hours, there is usually enough pm2.5 coming fom an old fireplace to cause an asthmatic neighbor in the plume to have an asthma attack. This is beyond a little inconveniance. Consider that 10% of the population is trying to use old equipment to heat houses and the fact that anyone within 500' can be affected and you realize that there are probably 100,000 hotspots in Maine or Pittsburgh when the wind is calm. That is why I have gotten the local hospital to recognize that woodburning is a public health problem. Get the community health department on your side and the American Lung Association and the DEP and the AMA and you have an army of experts on your side. But you still may not be able to overcome the effect of one ignorant Governor who does not have a clue what he is doing because all the government agencies are afraid of going against him. They fear losing their jobs or losing approval of a building or other things. But, you can overcome a Governor if you make enough of a sqwack in the papers and on the phone and on tv and radio and that is what I am trying to do. So far I am losing because I am a neophyte and I am not writing in the papers, but that may change. I had an effect talking in hearings and on the phone so I am emboldened. I have been practicing my writing on you and burning issues readers, and I am hearing basically good things, but learning a little from Mary, the old pro, to correct small errors. I'm speaking again tomorrow and should not be as nervous because the life and death urgency is gone for me. But hundreds of other Mainers are in life and death struggles and I think God would want me to try and help. Besides, I have been told that there are tremendous spiritual rewards for doing this kind of work. How could I pass up this opportunity to try to jump to a higher heaven and escape this whole mess in the future. You do not get to heaven by just believing in my opinion. You have to give out charity and I do not have money to give.

PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 4:05 pm
by turning_blue
Thank you Ernest, for your explanation. I have a lot to learn, and it is important that I do.

These Q's and A's are priceless and I will print them out so I can study them. I think they will also be beneficial to other readers that don't understand the science part but visit the forum.

Fireplace pm may be worse than I first estimated

PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 7:04 pm
by Ernest Grolimund
My first estimate of pollution from an old uncertified fireplace was 30 mcg/m3. This was based on proportional estimating from Dr. Browns modelling for an owb emitting 100 g/hr. I recently did another based on proportional estimating from Maine DEP modeling for an owb with a high stack like a fireplaces at 22'. The result I got was a little higher at about 40 mcg/m3 because I assumed a fireplace can be used to heat three rooms in an emergency based on a book about fireplaces by Gitlin. The author said old colonial homes in the Northeast had fireplaces designed to heat more than one room from radiant heat and convection off the chimney not just out the front. I looked at my Maine House, and noticed a central chimney mass exposed to the K,DR,LR and ducts to the attic bedroom and kitchen. A door right by the chimney could also convect heat up to the attic bedroom, so I guessed it could heat 1000 sf. If it heated 3 rooms it would heat 500 sf, 1 room 250 sf. I also noticed that the EPA said old fireplaces emitted 28 lb/mmbtu, old stoves emitted 4.6 lb/mmbtu and an oil boiler emitted .013 lb/m3. What a difference. An old fireplace emits 1,000 to 2,000 times more than an oil furnace! It's like getting all the pm from 1000 houses or your whole neighborhood enveloping your house and you can't see it.

I made an issue of it and the Maine DEP is finally going to model the scenarios I outlined: An old fieplace heating 3 rooms and an old stove heating a whole house since they are usually rated at 40,000 btu/hr or a whole house heating load. This could happen in a typical Maine or Northeast blizzard where the power goes out, and explain why 300 mcg/m3 pm levels have been measured in New England woodburning towns by the EPA. I assume this is peak hourly monitoring with a portable monitor in an emergency or inversion investigating complaints. It comes from a conversation , not an article. I got 20 mcg/m3 for an old stove and was a little surprised by this. These are levels in calm winds and to these levels you have to add 30 mcg/m3 ( Maine 24 hr ave design level, commonly reached in peak hours about once per week) to get levels of 70 mcg/m3 and 50 mcg/m3, peak hourly. For a 24 hr ave you have to decrease this to account for operation from 6am to 9pm. Then you get 55 mcg/m3 for an old fireplace and this would violate the 24 hr ave for pm2.5. Likewise you would get 43 mcg/m3 for an old stove. Both would be illegal, because you are not supposed to let pm go above 35 mcg/m3 in any location with a 24 hr average.

Yes, there is a wide variation and a room heater will put out less but I was trying to estimate what someone might do in a blizzard or if he was trying to heat his whole house. The EPA usually uses figures for clean appliances so it could be a lot worse if the chimney is creosoted which can happen easily if there is a lot of use and someone does not know how to prevent it and people do not generally know how to avoid creosote.

The EPA is reviewing this and the DEP is still reviewing this but they are going to run the modelling as an excercise for me based on my inputs as my study for a Governors aide. In other words, they do not want to take any responsibility for it but are curious like the Governors aide to see how bad the pollution is. Sen Collins has described it as "very polluting" (very injurious by DEP definition) and a Governors wood to energy task force has agreed based on the lb/mmbtu figures, so people are curious to know the air conc. because of the recent changes in the law and the owb problems. The EPA is also going to do some kind of study of this based on my complaint of a heart attack and asthma attack occuring in my neighborhood and my opacity readings and doctors letters and documentation. Letters or calls from CAR members added to mine and the involvement of the ALA and another env group helped too. I will let you know the final results and other modelling results from the EPA if and when I get it.

Note: the design level is the highest level of pm2.5 observed in a year throwing out 1 or 2 bad days and laws are supposed to prevent 24 ave pollution from reaching 35 mcg/m3 on any day. There have been days where the peak hourly pm2.5 has gotten higher. About 57 mcg/m3 is the highest peak hourly value I have seen in the recent DEP records from 2008,as I recall. People have rightly said that you cannot use this information to predict any one fireplace emission, however policy makers must work from averages and realistic worst case averages that are common. I am doing my best to do that and get reputable sources to check me.

Fireplaces: 400 mcg/m3 possible per consulting firm

PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:47 pm
by Ernest Grolimund
Fireplaces can put out 400mcg/m3 of pm according to 3 Sigma computing, a huge consulting firm studying air pollution for New Zealand. Wow! That means fireplaces can emit pm in extremely variable amounts! From 4 mcg/m3 to 400 mcg/m3 with 40 mcg/m3, the average, perhaps. Imagine a huge bell curve through these three points. The upper pm amounts are so scary, they make you think that all old fireplaces should be banned, no question.

What can do this? Old timers choke the hell out of their fireplaces to keep the heat from going up the chimney. A fire cannot burn without oxygen. Add creosote on a chimney and pollution goes way up. The larger the fire, the larger the pollution and in blizzards, people try to heat their whole house and probably do so. A big house in a blizzard with a big fire choked way back and creosote all over the chimney. A fireplace company told me that the top 2 feet of a chimney gets cold stopping the draft or velocity of emissions. The choking of fires also decreases temperature and combustion engineers are increasing temp to burn off air toxics. The air toxics also weigh down the pm so wood smoke sinks. Modelling programs cannot account for the air toxics so government environmental dept's think the pollution is not that bad. But it isn't really being measured in the field because of a lack of equipment to measure it.

On this last note. Concerned people in Maine like me and the Am Lung Assoc and a Governors advisor appear to have talked the DEP into buying a portable pm monitor so they can start to do some of this testing instead of relying strictly on theoretical modelling. Curt Freedman has been an advocate of this too. Wish I could borrow it for awhile and drive around measuring the plumes all over. But I suspect this monitor will be busy for quite awhile, and that's a good thing. You thought the $4,000 sidepak was expensive. Try $30,000 for the DEP monitor. An Am Lung scientist suggested actual measurements of air around schools with chip boilers. Sometimes people listen apparently. So become a squeeky wheel.