Ban needed on outdoor wood boilers

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Ban needed on outdoor wood boilers

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:15 pm

Op-Ed: Ban needed on outdoor wood boilers – by Nancy Alderman, President Environment and Human Health, Inc.

Posted in January 22nd, 2011

An outdoor wood-burning furnace, also known as an outdoor wood boiler, is essentially a small, insulated shed with a short smokestack. It burns wood that heats water that is then sent through underground pipes to heat a home or a building.

They emit smoke 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outdoor wood furnaces (OWFs) are not to be confused with indoor wood stoves, which are tested and certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Outdoor wood furnaces are not tested.

Most outdoor wood furnaces employ very primitive combustion technology. As a result, they emit dense smoke that endangers the health of families and neighbors. The particles of wood smoke are so small that closed doors and windows cannot stop them from entering homes, even energy-efficient, weather-tight homes.

The use of outdoor wood furnaces has increased over the past few years, causing many complaints about their smoke emissions making families in their vicinity sick.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Web site has a fact sheet that includes the question: “Are OWFs harmful to the environment and human health?” They answer, “Yes, OWFs produce a lot of thick smoke, which in addition to being a nuisance to neighbors, has serious health and air pollution impacts. Smoke from OWFs contains unhealthy amounts of particulate matter, dioxin, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and other toxic air pollutants. Exposure to smoke from an OWF can increase adverse respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms. Exposure to other pollutants listed above is associated with a diverse range of harmful health effects, including asthmatic sensitivity, lung illnesses and cancer.”

The state of Washington has banned them throughout their state because the OWFs wood smoke emissions do not fall within their air emission standards. The American Lung Association and Environment and Human Health, Inc. has also called for a ban in Connecticut.

Because the furnaces are in a closed shed, one cannot see what is being burned. Although they are designed for wood, owners can add yard waste, packing materials, construction debris, household garbage and tires without anyone knowing.

Burning those substances is illegal. However, there is no way to know what is being burned. If these other substances are burned, it will increase the toxic and hazardous air pollutants.

Different states have tried to protect people from these furnaces by passing regulations. However, none of the regulations have proven to be effective enough to protect health. For instance, Connecticut has a setback regulation of 200 feet from neighboring property and it has a regulation that requires the smokestack to be higher than the roof peak of the nearest house within 500 feet.

However, tests have shown that houses as far away as 850 feet from an OWF have wood smoke inside their homes 6 times the levels of houses not near an outdoor wood furnace and 4 times the levels of the EPA air standards.

Because of their basic design, it is possible that the furnaces can never be made safe. Their emissions problems are complicated by the fact they cycle between oxygen-deficient and oxygen-rich burning. The smoke that leaves the stack, irrespective of height, lacks the heat necessary for it to rise or to be diffused. The smoke falls to the ground.

Breathing air containing wood smoke has many harmful effects. It can reduce lung function and increase asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis. It can aggravate heart disease, irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses, as well as trigger headaches and allergies. The smoke contains many carcinogens as does cigarette smoke.

Environment and Human Health Inc. is a non-profit organizations made up of physicians and public health professionals. It receives no funding from businesses or corporations.

Nancy Alderman is president of Environment and Human Health Inc., North Haven, Connecticut

Editor’s Note: The Op-Ed piece by Nancy Alderman was submitted 1-22-11 following publication of a River Country Journal story about the 1-18-11 meeting of the Three Rivers City Commission. To access the story, click on the following link: TR City Commission learns more about Outdoor Wood Boilers.


related story

TR City Commission learns more about Outdoor Wood Boilers
Posted in January 21st, 2011

The Three Rivers City Commission had another lesson on outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) during its meeting Tuesday evening (January 18th).

Commissioners are gathering information after voting on December 7th to impose a six-month moratorium on the devices, a move aimed at giving time to consider how to deal with them in the future.

Dorothy Bohn, Air Quality Inspector with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, discussed outdoor wood boilers from the DEQ perspective during Tuesday's Three Rivers City Commission meeting.

During their January 4th meeting, commissioners heard from Duane Hettinger of Woods & Homes, a company based in Galesburg that sells OWBs. This time around, the presenter was Dorothy Bohn of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Air Quality Division. Bohn is the DEQ’s Air Quality Inspector for St. Joseph County.

Bohn’s presentation portrayed OWBs in a rather unflattering light, including an indication that they are “a significant source of particulate matter” which is linked to a number of negative health effects.

Bohn said the DEQ began seeing the devices in the Upper Peninsula in the early 1990s. She said the number of smoke and odor complaints increased with the number of installations and many governmental units in the U-P have imposed regulations on them. Bohn said the devices have gradually made their way south through the state. (Dorothy_Bohn_audio clip – :27)

The DEQ does not regulate residential OWBs, but cares about them because the department gets a lot of complaints about them and the Air Quality Division’s job is to protect Michigan’s air quality.

Bohn drew some chuckles when she showed this slide and cautioned commissioners, if they regulate OWBs, to not allow homemade units.

One slide in Bohn’s PowerPoint presentation posed this question: What Can You Do? The answer:

• Address the issue
• Help us to educate citizens
• Add ordinance language that: prohibits OWBs, moratorium on new units until regulations passed, allows the devices with restrictions.

Bohn said the DEQ is providing brochures, a model ordinance, and a website with information on the subject, and is encouraging responsible use of wood as a fuel.

To access website information on Woodburning & Air Quality, click here.,1607,7-13 ... oodboilers
And to download an outdoor wood boiler (OWB) fact sheet, click on the following link: Outdoor Wood Boiler (OWB) – Fact Sheet. ... 2298_7.pdf

source ... ment-19542
• 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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