Burning Issues

Joan Doiron is the Clean Air Revival International Woman of the Year

Bravo Joan! Thank you for your efforts for all of our health.

Joan Doiron has been eloquently fighting for clean air in her new neighborhood of Beaconsfield, (a suburb of Montréal), Canada since the heating season began in the Fall of 2006. Although the government and media response has been inaccurate, callous and enabling to the practice of wood burning, she has kept up her solid efforts to bring attention to the multibillion dollar wood smoke health risk that the official denial of this deadly pollution engenders. She has been unfailingly polite, concise, scientific and helpful in her many, many letters.

We put the Doiron letters (we have over 40 that we will publish as time permits) here as both inspiration and prototypes for the rest of us to follow. That is right! If you are tired of the burning bullies in your area, from whatever source, raise your voices and your pen.

Why won't we protect Mrs. Doiron and her family and her neighboorhood now?

Mary J. Rozenberg, President

Clean Air Revival, Inc., Point Arena, California, USA, January 7, 2007

Mrs. Doiron, Take the Floor!

January 7, 2007
National Office
Canadian Public Health Association
My husband and I (retired secondary teachers in our seventies) have recently moved from downtown Toronto to Beaconsfield (a suburb of Montréal). We moved to escape from the air pollution surrounding our downtown Toronto home.  The air in the summer here in Beaconsfield Québec was a great deal better than Toronto.
Now in the Winter we are faced with an intolerable situation affecting all this suburban area - that is the use and misuse of wood burning stoves and fireplaces.  This carcinogenic burning is giving us heart pains, burning mouths and throats, irritated eyes, and constant problems in accessing sufficient oxygen.  We complained to the local Council; an article was written about our situation in local paper (see above) as well as being covered by the local CBC news and Global TV.
This issue is a world health problem as you may see by examining the 20 years of research documented by BurningIssues.org (see attachments).  Likewise, in Québec, l'Association pour l`air pur has been active in drawing attention to how ubiquitous wood burning is a threat to the health of all (see attached recent letter on climate change/air pollution and the ALAP website).
Here in Canada this lethal wood burning is surely a relatively easily preventable pollution source.  One does not have to look much further to find such an aggressive carcinogen and cause of childhood asthma.  Children and the rest of us should not be exercising in this suburban atmosphere laced with wood burning toxics.This burning is equally easily replaced by less polluting electric or gas fireplaces.
We would request that the CPHA act to encourage Medical Officers of Health in Canada and governments to legislate and act against this burning.  Publicity from CPHA about the toxic dangers of wood burning would also be most helpful.  The contradictory government leaflets produced on this topic allow the public to mistakenly decide that wood burning is actually an environmental alernative!
We were alerted to your work through presentations made by Doctors Lambert, Bennett and Lee to the Senate environmental committee (shown on CPAC) on the mercury and other pollutants.  We would ask that you help have this major carcinogen and air pollutant controlled and ended as soon as possible. 
Canadian health authorities taking a position on this wood burning issue could lead the way to once again have Canada take leadership in the world on this cause of the death and illness of hundreds of thousands (60,000 alone yearly in the US).
In anticipation of your involvement in this critical health issue,
Yours truly,
Joan and Henri Doiron

Burning an issue in Beaconsfield
Woman seeks damper on wood smoke
Dec.14, 2006

Burning an issue in Beaconsfield

Joan Doiron wants Beaconsfield to ban wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.
Woman seeks damper on wood smoke, BY ANDY BLATCHFORD, andy.blatchford@transcontinental.ca

When Joan and Henri Doiron moved to Beaconsfield from Toronto last summer, the couple thought they left the smothering smog of the big city behind.

But as the temperature dropped and neighbours began to use their fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, the Doirons noticed something in the air.

They are both short of oxygen when smoke funnels from chimneys in the neighbourhood, prompting Joan to find a solution and raise awareness about the health risks of wood burning.

“We found (the air) quite good in the summer where we are in Beaconsfield, but it’s gotten really bad,” she said last week. “We’re senior citizens and we have a lot of trouble with air pollution.

“Our eyes hurt and we have trouble with pains in our chest and I get headaches. It’s a scary thing.”

Joan, who considers herself to be in good health, was surprised by her body’s reaction.

She sent a request for wood-burning regulations to the city, Jacques Cartier MNA Geoff Kelley and Lac St. Louis MP Francis Scarpaleggia.

Her push has already caught the attention of Beaconsfield environment committee chairman Kate Coulter.

Measures to curb burning are currently being examined by the group, said Coulter, a city councillor.

“It is polluting and for a certain amount of the population it is quite irritating to their health, so I agree with her that it’s a cause for concern,” Coulter said. “When you read the documentation from Natural Resources Canada people do have a serious amount of complaints in all parts of Canada about wood-burning stoves.”

Several Montreal suburbs were identified as “hot spots” for wood burning — used for either heating or pleasure — in a study conducted by the department of public health in 20001, according to Environment Canada’s air quality unit co-ordinator André Germain.

“We know that wood burning does emit some pollutants and among them are fine particles that can go deep in the lungs,” he said. “(The fine particles) can cause problems in people who already have problems with their cardio-respiratory tract.”

Canada’s health and environment departments warn that wood smoke also contains many harmful components, including carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, according to the government website burnitsmart.org.

“Even in low concentrations wood smoke can harm the health of children, the elderly and those with existing respiratory diseases,” the site reads.

Germain said particles released from wood burning are also a major contributor to winter smog in residential areas.

After nine straight days of smog in the winter of 2005, Montreal set a record, according to the annual report released by the city’s air quality department.

“What we do suggest is when there is bad air quality people should not use their stoves,” Germain said. “If the air quality is OK (people should have only) small, quick fires.”

Only dry, clean wood — and never garbage —should be burned, he added.

Colorado has restrictions on wood burning during smog alerts, an initiative Coulter said she will consider for Beaconsfield.

“We’re not going to ban wood-burning stoves overnight,” Coulter said. “I know that’s what (Joan Doiron) would like to have happen, but it’s just not possible. But I’m certainly open to regulating wood-burning stoves.”

Coulter said even if regulations are instituted, they would be difficult and costly to enforce.

Beaconsfield published information about the hazards of wood burning and tips for minimizing them in the December issue of its Contact newsletter (available online at beaconsfield.ca).

Representatives from a non-governmental organization will be invited to discuss wood burning at the city’s environmental fair, scheduled for Earth Day on April 21, she said. 

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