Wood Smoke: The scourge of our cities

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Wood Smoke: The scourge of our cities

Postby Wilberforce » Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:44 am

July 24, 2008

Wood Smoke: The scourge of our cities

While Rome was burning, Nero was playing his lyre. When wood is burning, serious health and
environmental consequences are at stake, but noone is paying attention. The proliferation of
recreational burning, wood burning restaurants and the rush to burn wood biomass for energy
have fouled urban air nation-wide. This is in part due to the lack of public awareness on the
hazards of wood smoke, which is far more concentrated than tobacco smoke and contains many
of the same carcinogenic toxicants. Like tobacco smoke, there is no safe level of wood smoke.

Before various state-wide smoking bans cleared the air of tobacco smoke in bars and restaurants,
people had a choice not to patronize establishments where smoking was allowed. But there is no
choice but to breathe wood smoke when it infiltrates the property and airspace of others, carrying
with it a host of fine particulates that include black carbon soot, arsenic, lead, mercury, formaldehyde,
polyaromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins--some of the most insidious chemicals known to man!
There is no place to hide from wood smoke’s fine particulates that accumulate and pollute
mammalian lungs, our air, livestock, wildlife, crops and waters.

A wake up call
The seriousness of wood smoke pollution cannot be overstated. Wood smoke remains chemically
active in the body forty times longer than tobacco smoke, and it travels much farther, affecting an
entire community. “The fine particles in wood smoke can trigger asthma attacks in a manner similar
to diesel or secondhand cigarette smoke,” said Laura Oatman, environmental research scientist from
the Minnesota Department of Health. (www.pca.state.mn.us/air/woodsmoke/healtheffects.html)

“When fine particulate pollution goes up, people die”, according to Dr. Joel Schwartz, Harvard School
of Public Health. Wood smoke is implicated in reproductive birth defects and in sudden infant death
syndrome. Many studies show that upwards of 100,000 people die prematurely each year in the
United States from exposure to wood smoke, and that number is on the increase with the popularity
of wood burning.

Wood smoke’s role in global warming
New NASA satellite studies show that wood smoke’s fine particulates interfere with the seeding of
rain in clouds, having a major influence on climate change.

Time to act
Most municipalities have nuisance and public health ordinances that would disallow recreational
wood burning if they were enforced. It is paramount that we urge public officials to regulate wood
smoke as a top priority for cleaner air in our cities!

By Julie Mellum
Midwest Director, Clean Air Revival, www.burningissues.org
President, Take Back the Air, www.takebacktheair.com; info@takebacktheair.com
3833 Thomas Avenue S.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55410
Occupation: Realtor
Phone: 612-926-1093 (home office)
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