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Don’t let our air go up in smoke

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 8:11 pm
by Wilberforce
Brittany Martin
GUEST COMMENTARY: Don’t let our air go up in smoke

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 11:47 am | Updated: 11:51 am, Tue Dec 16, 2014.

With the holidays approaching, it’s time again to remind Maricopa County residents and businesses to not burn wood or wax logs in fireplaces, chimineas and outdoor fire pits on designated No Burn days.

And please save those New Years’ fireworks for the Fourth of July, too.

All the smoke and soot from these activities pose serious health risks for kids, the elderly and anyone with heart and lung problems. Lives can literally depend on your cooperation.

Science tells us that fireworks and wood smoke are the primary culprits for soot emissions during winter. These particles are finer than a grain of flour. When inhaled, they lodge deeply in the lungs where they get absorbed by the bloodstream.

Studies have linked long-term soot exposure to lost lung function, bronchitis, asthma, lung disease, heart attacks and increased death rates. Chronic lower respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in Arizona. Children, older adults and people with existing heart and lung problems are especially sensitive to such fine particulate exposure.

Analyses further show that the pollution levels for soot are significantly higher on wintertime weekends and holidays. Monitors from Glendale to Tempe have recorded concentrations on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in excess of the federal health-based standard.

This should come as no surprise, since Christmas and New Year’s are precisely when people most want to light a fire or shoot off fireworks in the winter.

State and county air quality officials, working with many community partners throughout the Valley, are doing what we can to inform the public when a wintertime No Burn Day has been called. You’ll see signs on the freeways and in many grocery stores. You’ll hear announcements on radio and television. You can also sign up to receive alerts and find more detailed information at

During the season of giving and caring, you have the power to save lives. On designated No Burn Days, don’t burn wood or set off fireworks. Light a candle or use a natural gas fireplace instead. Postpone wood burning and fireworks for another day.

Philip McNeely is director of the Maricopa County Air Quality Department

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