The coastline in most places is considered a treasured resource to be protected for all to access. California is home to the most powerful agency of it’s kind – the California Coastal Commission. Back in the days of Gidget, no one even knew cigarette smoking was a leading cause of cancer, let alone the harm of breathing smoke from beach bonfires. While it’s hard to let go of nostalgic traditions, awareness of the impact of woodsmoke on human health has paved the way for regulation of beach bonfires and there’s a growing trend towards use of cleaner fuels to make those s’mores.
In Newport Beach, California, concern over the health impacts of beach fires led to a landmark air quality regulation effective in 2014. The South Coast Air Quality Management District measured harmful particulates per minute – PM2.5 – emanating from just one wood burning bonfire to be equivalent to the secondhand smoke of 800 cigarettes.
[blockquote size=”two-thirds” align=”right” byline=”Mary Shallenberger, Coastal Commissioner”]Who doesn’t have access to the beach because their lungs will not permit them?[/blockquote]The California Coastal Commission, known for it’s concern for low-cost beach amenities, voted in 2015 to support cleaner burning fuels for beach bonfires in Carmel, California. They recognize cleaner burning as a way to support access for all while protecting public health and air quality.
No one, not those with asthma or COPD, nor cancer survivors or pregnant women, the young or elderly, should be denied access to beaches when cleaner burning alternatives exist. Woodsmoke itself is a barrier to entry. Be it woodsmoke or tobacco, the health effects are the same.