My view: Wood burning hurts Utah air quality

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My view: Wood burning hurts Utah air quality

Postby Wilberforce » Tue Nov 11, 2014 8:02 pm

My view: Wood burning hurts Utah air quality

By Brian Moench
For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 11 2014 12:00 a.m. MST Updated: 21 hours ago

Our dreaded winter inversion season is just around the corner. We can expect more rallies, more legislation, more debates between lawmakers and clean air advocates and more national and international notoriety for our sometimes “worst in the nation” pollution. Last January, much to his credit, Gov. Gary Herbert called for a wintertime ban on wood burning in our worst polluted counties. His proposal deserves community-wide and legislative support.

Wood burning in a fireplace, stove or boiler has become an anachronism for a modern-day urban area. In many cities, Salt Lake included, wood burning accounts for as much winter time pollution as all our cars. But for multiple reasons, the health consequences are far greater than even the bulk contribution wood smoke makes to overall community pollution levels.

Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in your chimney doesn’t stay in your chimney. It also doesn’t equally distribute throughout the valley. Residential wood smoke, from a short stack or chimney, disperses very poorly, especially during stagnant, inversion circumstances. The end result is that where people spend the most time during the winter — in their own homes and neighborhoods — one neighbor burning wood can create significantly higher outdoor pollution levels than what registers at the nearest DAQ monitoring station, which may be miles away.

Wood smoke is comprised of extremely small particles, smaller even than what is formed from tailpipes and industrial smokestacks. Particles this small stay in the atmosphere longer, easily penetrating virtually any home no matter how tightly sealed. Studies show when your neighbor lights up his wood-burning appliance, you can experience in your own home levels of wood smoke pollution 75-88 percent as high as outside. Furthermore, even when a storm clears the air outside, the indoor pollution in your home lingers much longer, accumulating on every household surface. That means even when Salt Lake Valley has overall good air quality and no restrictions apply to wood burning, your wood-burning neighbor can create Beijing, China, levels of air pollution in your home.

Making matters worse, these smaller particles are more easily inhaled, more difficult to exhale and more easily penetrate individual cells once they gain entrance to the body. The EPA has estimated that for an equal volume of particulate matter, the potential to cause cancer is 12 times greater for wood smoke than for secondhand cigarette smoke.

The dangerous profile of wood smoke doesn’t end there. PM 2.5 are fine particles that pose great threat to your health. Wood for fires is infested with these particles. Not all PM 2.5 is equally toxic; PM 2.5 from wood smoke may be the worst kind, in part because it is highly concentrated with dangerous compounds like heavy metals, formaldehyde, dioxins and PAHs. Burning 10 pounds of wood for one hour releases as many PAHs as 6,000 packs of cigarettes. No one in their right mind would think that sitting in front of 6,000 smoldering packs of cigarettes every hour during a cozy winter evening is a good idea.

Once the health hazards of secondhand cigarette smoke were firmly established, ordinances were passed to protect people from it. Scientifically, we are at that stage now with wood burning. We should not allow a few wood burners to so profoundly affect the air quality for the entire community.

More than likely your neighbors would not choose to sacrifice their health for your freedom to burn wood. A civilized society would suggest they shouldn’t have to.

Dr. Brian Moench is the president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

source ... ality.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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