Reasons to ban wood burning

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment offers 17 reasons to ban wood burning

  1. All pollution is not created equal. Woodsmoke is the most toxic type of pollution in most cities, more dangerous than automobile and most industrial pollution. Lighting a wood fire in your house is like starting up your own toxic incinerator.
  2. The lifetime cancer risk is 12 times greater for woodsmoke compared to an equal volume of secondhand cigarette smoke.
  3. Burning 10 lbs. of wood for one hour, releases as much polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as 6,000 packs of cigarettes.
  4. Toxic free radical chemicals in woodsmoke are biologically active 40 times longer than the free radicals in cigarette smoke.
  5. Woodsmoke is the third largest source of dioxins, one of the most intensely toxic compounds known to science.
  6. The very small size of wood particles make them 7 times more likely to be inhaled than other particulate pollution.
  7. Woodsmoke easily penetrates homes of neighbors creating concentrations up to 88% as high as outdoor air.
  8. If you smell woodsmoke, you know you’re being harmed; the sweet smell comes from deadly compounds like benzene.
  9. The most dangerous components of air pollution are much higher inside homes that burn wood compared to those that don’t, as much as 500% higher.
  10. Considering the most dangerous part of particulate pollution, wood burning produces as much overall as all our cars during the winter.
  11. The inhalable particulate pollution from one wood stove is equivalent to the amount emitted from 3,000 gas furnaces producing the same amount of heat.
  12. Emissions from modern combustion appliances for wood logs may increase tenfold if they are not operated appropriately, and most of them are not.
  13. Woodsmoke is the only pollution emitted right where people spend most of their time. It disperses poorly, is not evenly distributed and stays in the air longer because of its small size. Concentrations can be 100 times higher for neighbors of wood burners than what is captured at the nearest monitoring station. Real local “pollution victims” are created even when overall community levels are low.
  14. If your neighbor is a regular wood burner, and follows all the rules, i.e. doesn’t burn during Yellow or Red alert days, but does during all Green days, you can go an entire winter without having one single day of clean air. This is a civil rights issue.
  15. According to California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District, burning wood costs the rest of the community, primarily your next door neighbors, at least $2 in extra medical expenses for every lb. of wood that you burn. An average fire then costs your neighbors about $40.
  16. Long ago, most communities passed ordinances protecting people from secondhand cigarette smoke. Ironically those laws protect people at places they don’t necessarily have to be (restaurants, stores, and buildings), but in the one place they have to be, their own home, they have no protection from something even worse – woodsmoke. People should have just as much protection from woodsmoke as from cigarette smoke and for all the same reasons. We don’t allow people to blow cigarette smoke in your face, why should we allow people to blow woodsmoke into your home?
  17. Wood burning is not even close to carbon neutral over the short-term, the next few decades, and it is that time frame that will make or break the climate crisis. Burning wood is extremely inefficient. Per unit of heat created, wood produces even more CO2 than fossil fuels do. Furthermore, the black carbon particulate matter released enhances the absorption of radiant heat in the atmosphere, making global warming worse, and prematurely melting the already imperiled mountain snowpack.

From Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

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