Wood Smoke SUCCESS STORY!
how this woman’s determination and persistence shut down her
neighbor’s firepit with the help of an Insurance company.
They can discover unseen soot on your walls by mopping it
with a special sponge. Read on, and see if this
approach could work for you.
My life changed drastically the day my
neighbor decided that his right to burn marshmallows over
his fire pit superseded my right to breath smoke-free air.
It happened two years ago in the month
of May. My husband was outside doing yard
work, and I was in the house starting my spring cleaning.
The windows were wide open to air out the house after
being closed tight for the winter. Out of
the blue, rancid smoke filled the house.
My eyes and nose started to burn, itch and run; I was
coughing and wheezing like I was having an asthma attack.
I couldn’t imagine where the smoke was coming from,
but I quickly discovered it was coming from my neighbor’s
backyard. He bought a new “toy” - a fire
pit. Our back yards butt up to each
other, his house is uphill from mine, and there is no
fencing or shrubbery between the yards.
This setting was perfect for the smoke to billow down from
his fire pit and directly into my house.
I will always remember those feelings of helplessness and
despair --- they still linger inside of me today.
My pleas to stop burning fell on deaf
ears not only with my neighbor, but also township officials,
the police and my local state representative.
I stumbled upon the
website and did everything they suggested:
I took pictures with the dates stamped on
I kept a detailed journal of the days he
burned and for how long
I documented every conversation I had with
my neighbor and officials
I got copies of doctor
reports that documented the physical ailments and mental
distress the smoke caused
me and my family
I called the police every time he burned
and got a copy of each police report (Even though the
police said they couldn’t officially stop the burning, their
reports confirmed my complaints.)
I copied every letter I sent to my neighbor
asking for some cooperation
(I even offered to buy him a propane fire pit to use so that
he and his family could continue to “enjoy
roasting their marshmallows as a family” without smoking me
out – but he refused my offer!)
I copied the letter that I had on hold with my lawyer to
file for an injunction – which I was only going to send
as a last resort because of the great expense.
I told my story to everyone hoping to
find a solution. By chance, I spoke with
another neighbor who worked for a smoke and fire restoration
company. He checked my walls with a
special sponge and found that I had soot on them.
I couldn’t see it, but it was there!
He suggested I contact my insurance company to report
the soot damage. It was his experience
that businesses had to pay for any damage they caused to
their neighbors, maybe my fire pit burning neighbor would be
held responsible too.
Before my insurance agent came out, I
had my oil company do a complete check-up on my furnace.
They gave me a letter stating that my furnace was in
good working condition and not releasing any soot into my
house. They also added that they did not
see any evidence of soot damage from the heater on my walls.
My insurance agent found small to
moderate amounts of soot on my walls when he came out for
the inspection. The walls closest to the
source of the burning had the most soot.
I gave him copies of all my pictures and documentation.
He took pictures of my yard, my neighbor’s yard, and
his fire pit. I noticed that my neighbor’s insurance came to
inspect too. His agent even asked my
other neighbors if I grilled outside a lot or burned
I was told by my agent that the total
cost to clean the soot from my home would be $6000.
My insurance company issued me a check right away for
$5000, less my $1000 deductible. They
informed me they would be going after my neighbor’s
insurance company to recoup the money for the damages.
My insurance company also asked if I wanted their
lawyer to try and recoup my $1000 deductible, of course I
Well, it took two long, stress-filled
years, but my insurance company was finally successful in
recovering their $5000 and my $1000 deductible.
Luckily for me, my neighbor stopped burning once the
insurance companies got involved. I would
like to say the stress is gone and I feel like my life is
back to normal now, but it’s not. I
continue to be anxious that he may start again, or some
other neighbor may start burning. I am
thankful for whatever peace I have now, but pray that my
story may help others so that we may all live smoke free
some day soon.
Bucks County, PA
|Below is an example of why Environment and Human Health,
Inc. is asking for regulations that would require "No
Burning" on air quality alert days and days of extreme
heat. These regulations should extend into the evening hours
- just as the alert and the heat does.
Sent to me from Nancy Alderman, President, Environment and
Human Health, Inc.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Dear Mrs. Alderman,
Today was another state of CT air quality alert. The
temperature in Niantic registered at103 degrees at 2 PM. The
air is unhealthy and ozone levels are unhealthy.
I had my ceiling and oscillating fans on tonight and the
open. Approximately 10:45pm I smelled wood smoke. I could
barely make it outside into my car to drive down the street
to see who was burning a recreational fire since the smell
of smoke was so strong on my front porch and driveway.
On this excessively hot day and very hot evening, the air I
am breathing is filled with smoke. Sure enough the people
one street over were sitting around their firepit in the far
corner of their yard and then when they are finished they
can go into their smoke free house.
I am so upset that these people would pick a night like
tonight to burn a fire with record temperatures. From my
drive in the neighborhood only these people had a fire.
I called the fire department and they had me call the police
department dispatch to send a cruiser to the address and let
them know about their smoke traveling to my house.
Unfortunately, even if they extinguish the fire, the damage
is already done. The smoke engulfing all sides of my house
will never dissipate all night long with this heat. The
symptoms I now have after breathing this smoke combined with
the unhealthy air quality and heat of the night are really
bad. The particulates get into my house through the cracks
and walls, etc. I will suffer this eveningfrom this smoke.
xxxxxxxx, Niantic, CT
A letter from a Salmon Arm, BC victim
of residential wood smoke
(This letter was sent to both
Health & Environment)
Hello Mr. xxxxx, thank you for
your email a few days ago. I must say I am somewhat
disappointed. I had hoped some assistance might be
I am having great difficulty in
expressing to all concerned that dense smoke from the
OWB is only a portion of the issues of hazardous
emissions. I am sending along two pictures taken by Mr.
xxxxx and sent to Dr. xxxxx. The emissions as you see
them are emitting 24 hours a day, except when the burner
is in start up mode, at which time the smoke is
extremely dense; this start up mode can, and does,
happen several times a day, all depending on temperature
and amount of heat extracted from the unit.
Mr. xxxxx's unit is very well
hidden and is not visible from any angle other than
inside his driveway and very near his house,
consequently viewing and photos of these emissions is
near impossible without trespass. A drive-by, except
when the unit is in start up will reveal very little in
the way of evidence of actual contamination. This is why
an air quality monitor is so important.
When you and your colleagues are
on your frequent visits to Salmon Arm, at which time you
have advised you will drive by, please also observe the
units operating at xxxxxxx. ( also very well hidden so
only start up emissions will be noticeable, you will
recognize this property by the stacks of old wood
pallets and used timbers, I suspect fuel for the OWB,).
The other unit is located at xxxxxx, this unit I
understand is servicing three homes and is presently
under renovation to provide heat to a butcher shop
located on the same property, thus even more wood smoke
and pollution will be added to the environment. This
unit is very visible and is a prime example of the
menace of these uncontrolled machines.
Thank you again for your time,
Hello xxxxx.....I note you have
chosen not to respond to my previous email; perhaps I am
mistaken and the email has somehow been misplaced (or
forgotten) thus I am sending it to you once more.
Hopefully I will hear from you shortly. Could you please
advise me the name of your colleague with whom you sat
and observed the boiler a few weeks ago, also, I would
like to know the vantage point from which you made these
observations as I am yet unable to find a clear site
Thank you in advance,
A letter from a person in
Dollard des Ormeaux
[I have enclosed a video of my neighbour’s wood burning
unit. I hope you take note of the black soot surrounding the
chimney. Unfortunately the video doesn’t do justice to the
smell that goes along with the smoke.
-While filming this footage, my neighbour began to verbally
harass me and consequently a police report was filed after
In 2009, there were 29 smog alert warnings on the
island of Montreal – the most of any year on record. An
estimate in 2000 by the Montreal Public Health Department
put the number of households with fireplaces or wood stoves
on the island at 100,000. The study noted that pollution
from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves was worse in six
areas, including Pierrefonds and Dollard des Ormeaux.
Cigarette smoke has been dealt with and yet wood smoke,
which is far more dangerous, remains in our air with little
that can be done without the help of our municipalities.
There is no excuse to continue to burn wood as one’s primary
source of heat when many more environmentally-friendly
alternatives are available such as electric, natural gas,
oil and geo-thermal heat.
Based on personal experience, I can tell you that wood smoke
creates a smell that stays on your clothes, your hair and on
your pet when you want to take them for a walk. The health
effects that my family has had to endure include symptoms
such as dry throat, coughing, irritation of the eyes,
irritation of the nose and headaches.
Wood smoke can’t be kept out of one’s home. The
particulate matter is so tiny that it can manage to get
through windows, doors, and ventilation systems. There is
plenty of evidence to support that replacing existing
windows with newer windows will do nothing to help change
the issue of wood smoke entering one’s home. No resident
should have to beg to have fresh air to breath inside their
The neighbour in question who is smoking wood has
continued to use wood heating as their primary source of
heat from the months of September-April. My family has made
formal complaints to public security officials and the urban
planner of the municipality. The public security officials
were unaware of what they could do to help with the
complaint and said that they would take down the complaint
but couldn’t do anything to help since there is no official
by-law concerning wood smoke.
We have spoken to the urban planner who has discussed the
by-laws with us and mentioned the use of no-burn days in the
municipality. The urban planner met with our neighbour and
discussed the by-laws and the issue of no-burn days with our
neighbour. As soon as the urban planner left, the wood
burning continued the very next day.
Furthermore, we have made several complaints on smog
alert days to the urban planner of the municipality and have
seen no direct action taken. The urban planner’s response
has been that it would take several visits on his behalf
before any official fine or action can be taken for wood
Our neighbour will continue to do this to us and
others as long as he knows that he can get away with it. As
long as he abuses the system without getting caught; he will
continue to do so. Another issue is that the individuals who
are causing the nuisance don’t want to be told that they are
causing a disturbance. They become defensive and belligerent
and show it by increasing their smoke load.
Many other individuals who have dealt with the same issue
have recommended that we ask the municipality to look into
whether the wood burning stove meets regulatory requirements
but we have seen several instances where neighbours have
managed to get the municipality to do this only to find out
that it did meet regulatory standards and that the city
couldn’t stop the individual from using their wood burning
Most municipalities are undecided about how to handle
wood smoke and keep everyone happy. It’s the burners that
continue to abuse their neighbours with smoke. This has
spoiled all of their enjoyment of their own home and
property and often has made them sick. There are many people
currently dealing with wood burners that won’t stop their
burning until they are taken to court. This is a lengthy and
expensive procedure that further punishes the innocent
victim of the wood smoke who has been suffering for some
time already with the loss of the enjoyment of their
property and the health effects of the smoke that filters
into their home.
Recently, there have been published news articles that might
lead one to believe that wood burning is safe. This is
simply hype by a manufacturing industry that wants to
persuade the public into purchasing newer wood smoking
devices and getting them to believe that these newer
“Greener” models are much better for the environment and
safer than traditional wood smoking devices. Some mayors
recommend that EPA 2 wood stoves be used. There is little
evidence to suggest that these newer models (which many
municipalities are trying to transition to) are any safer
than the previous wood smoking devices that are currently
being used by homeowners right now.
Wood burning appliances are not like most other
heating systems because the quality of the outcome is so
much in the hands of the user. People who don’t care about
the impacts of their actions on neighbours and are content
to remain ignorant of how to burn wood effectively will make
a lot of smoke, regardless of the emissions rating of the
appliance they choose. There is no such thing as “good
smoke”. You can’t escape the wood smoke that makes its way
into your home through ventilation systems and small spaces
in between doors and windows. No air cleaner will help to
improve the air and make it safer for you to breathe.
It’s unrealistic to believe that all wood smoking devices
will be banned in the near future. Many municipalities are
offering switch out programs that range from 5-7 years to
either permanently ban wood stoves or replace them with
newer EPA2 certified stoves. 5-7 years of wood burning smoke
for a program that shows little evidence of improvement over
the previous devices is hard to imagine. In addition, there
is a by-law that bans outdoor smokers in the summertime in
your municipality so why is there no by-law for indoor wood
smoking devices? I don’t see how two devices which are
similar in nature can have two distinct regulations or lack
thereof depending on what time of the year it is when they
both present the same dangers to one’s own personal health.
There are several individuals who believe that they are
saving money by using EPA certified wood burning stoves and
who believe that they are burning their wood safely and
don’t want to see their personal freedoms taken away by an
abusive municipality who they believe are overstepping their
boundaries when it comes to legislation. There are many
individuals who use their fireplace or wood burning stove
sparingly and don’t want to see them banned because of a
small minority who abuse their wood burning stove on a
There must be an effective way to enforce a complaint
when it’s called in for neighbours who are being subjected
to the smoke from residential wood burning. I believe that a
public nuisance by-law regarding wood burning smoke is an
effective law to stop individuals from abusing their wood
burning stoves. There are by-laws in place that limit noise
such as loud music or dogs barking and a limit on wood smoke
wouldn’t be any different. This would allow individuals who
wish to continue to use their wood burning devices to do so
but would prevent individuals from using their wood burning
devices as a primary source of heat.
A person’s right to burn wood should stop when it interferes
with another’s right to breathe clean air on their property.
My suggestion is that the first complaint be dealt
with by a warning, the second complaint by a fine and each
successive complaint receives an escalating fine. This would
put the onus on the burner to either burn properly (keeping
the noxious smoke from invading surrounding neighbours) or
find that wood burning is too expensive to continue.
With strict enforcement of a bylaw such as this, it
would be a very inexpensive way for municipalities to spare
the air for their residents and show that they understand
that residents need to be protected from smoke invasion in
their homes and properties.
Residential Wood Smoke Pollution is a burning issue...
Whether it is from a forest fire, agriculture burn, fire
pit, backyard burning or residential wood burning
appliance, old or new, they all have one thing in
common, they all emit toxic emissions. Like cigarette
smoke, residential wood smoke contains hundreds of
dangerous air pollutants, gases and fine particulates
that can cause cancer and other serious health problems
such as: blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, lung
disease like asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, and
bronchitis; irritation of the lungs, throat, sinuses and
eyes; headaches; allergenic reactions; increased
hospital admissions and even premature death.
The particles in wood smoke are too small to be filtered
by the nose and upper respiratory system, so they wind
up deep in the lungs and act as vectors for bacteria,
toxins and virus. Wood smoke is more than a nuisance,
wood smoke is chemically active in the body 40 times
longer than cigarette smoke.
Wood smoke contains hundreds of dangerous air pollutants
and gases such as:
Particulate Matter 2.5, Carbon monoxide, Sulfur
dioxide, Nitrogen oxides, PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic
Hydrocarbons) VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) Dioxins,
Furans, Benzene, Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic,and many other
Most people do not report wood smoke pollution instead
they suffer in silence thinking that it is only a
nuisance not realizing that it is a severe health
hazard. Residential Wood Smoke Pollution (RWSP) makes
people sick and kills many.
The American Environment Protection Agency estimates
that the lifetime cancer risk from wood smoke is 12
times greater than that from an equal volume of
second hand cigarette smoke. (The Health Effects of Wood
State Department of Ecology); Studies show that people
who heat their homes with wood have more respiratory
problems than those who don’t.
Smoke particles also invade neighbouring homes. Research
shows that children in wood burning neighbourhoods are
more likely to have lung and breathing problems. (From
Focus on Wood Smoke Pollution - Washington State
Department Of Ecology)
Is it not time to take this chronic, severe form of Air
Pollution seriously and protect the health of everyone?
Why is it that all levels of government have chosen not
to inform the public about this deadly form of Air
Burning is an option... breathing is not!
Vicki Morell Vancouver BC, Canada - Director of the
British Columbia Chapter of the Canadian Clean Air
"A breath of fresh air - for all generations"
What would you think if one of your neighbors had a smoking habit of
six thousand cigarettes per hour or a habit that releases the
equivalent air pollution as 100 automobiles* endlessly circling the
neighborhood? What if you had several of these neighbors?
Unfortunately, many of us do, and any chance of fresh nighttime air
is frivolously absent.
I would like to share with you my desire and possibility that our
neighborhood could be a leader and role model in a “Smoke-Free
Neighborhood” campaign. It is quite simple actually.
In most metropolitan areas, especially during the winter months,
wood smoke is the largest or second-largest contributor to
night-time air degradation and pollution. It is time to convert wood
burning fireplaces to natural gas.
Our expanding knowledge of health issues, together with social and
political pressure has allowed Californians to enjoy many public
smoke-free environments in our places of work, restaurants, concert
halls and the airlines. It wasn’t long ago when attending public
venues resulted in your fresh clothes and shampooed hair smelling
like a musty ashtray (to say nothing about the additional burden and
insult to your eyes and lungs).
Unfortunately, of all places, it is our very own neighborhood that
is deficient and lagging behind in California's smoke-free trends.
We could be one of the first in the city, the state or possibly even
the country to recognize this straightforward opportunity and
healthy life style change.
I know many people may like the smell of smoke; some even like the
smell of cigarettes, glue or gasoline. That’s fine, but I feel that
our residents’ young and old alike, should not be forced nor be
subjected to any of these substances. Wood smoke is a nuisance, a
health concern, a contributor of soot, green house gas and a
superfluous insult to our already derogated quality of air.
Won't you join me leading the way applying this relatively simple,
painless and future-forward contribution to our quality of life and
*(100 automobiles is a line of cars almost 1 mile long)
I live beside a home
that is using a wood burning furnace to heat their home here in
Vinton, Iowa. The smoke causes my eyes to burn almost
constantly and I have sneezing spells and when I go outside the
smell just hits me in the chest like a fist. The city council
here will do nothing and I have contacted the local DNR and
there is no regulations on wood burning furnaces here in Iowa.
I have some pictures taken on Feb 5th from inside our back door
as the smoke was so bad did not want to go outside. You can
see how close the wood burner is to our back door. They not
only have the wood burner furnace outside but have a wood
burning stove in their porch which is directly next to my
bedroom and one in the garage and when it is cold they have all
last year when our neighbor replaced their woodstove by
themselves we also have an 8yr old and 20month old, same story
the city cannot help the region of health cannot help we are
stuck and I don’t think we can live like this for 3 to 4 yrs
like some of the stories I have read. If there is any help
please let us know. Brampton, Ontario see pictures attached we
have lots more and video. Two of the pictures were on a
beautiful day +3 and my wife and daughter could not even go
outside to play. It’s hard to believe in this “GREEN AGE”
nothing can be done..
Hello, just read
your article. We live in a neighbourhood with a beach where 6
years ago the regional district put in fire rings. our house is
engulfed with smoke on warm summer evenings. they burn driftwood
and construction waste and its just fine with the local
government, my taxes even go to help buy firewood. my lungs feel
like I've smoked a pkg of cigarettes each day. hard to believe
this is taking place in Canada. sounds like some country in the
developing world. I am very interested on your court case as our
neighbourhood could be in the same situation. I sympathize with
you and add my encouragement. education is the key..
Wood Smoke Trespass
by Julie Mellum,
A Violation of
If a neighbour experimented with a new invention known to spew
and other dangerous toxicants into your yard, surely your local air
regulators would be able to shut
down the operation immediately. Wouldn’t they? If these noxious
fumes entered your yard, home,
and lungs uninvited, it would be a clear violation of your property
rights as a taxpayer. What if your
neighborhood began using them by the droves? Imagine the
consequences of these compounded
toxic fumes, if allowed to continue unabated, magnifying the chances
of asthma attacks, heart attacks,
reproductive birth defects, and sudden infant death syndrome. Wood
burning fireplaces, outdoor
fire pits and their ilk, along with the proliferation of wood
burning restaurants, are the culprits. Their
smoke and carbon soot are polluting private property and entire
neighborhoods to an alarming degree
in urban areas across the nation.
More Than a
Wood smoke violates nuisance ordinances and air quality standards as
it fans out in capricious and
unpredictable plumes affecting property owners in entire urban areas
just like a massive invasion of
tobacco smoke, only more concentrated. Wood smoke is a mobile source
of fine particulate pollution
that spews many of the same cancer-causing toxicants into the air
that are in cigarette smoke. Even
low level exposures take their toll—especially on children and
others with asthma The American Lung
Association cites that wood smoke is a trigger for asthma attacks
and asthma can be life threatening.
We can tell our house guests that smoking isn’t allowed in our
homes. We should be able to declare
our own property a smoke-free zone outdoors! A person’s right to
burn wood should stop when it
interferes with another’s right to breathe clean air on their
property. Wood smoke from a neighbor
or neighboring business could devalue your property because frequent
smoke is a “material fact”
that could negatively influence a buyer’s interest in your property.
Wood Smoke’s Fine
Particulates Contribute to Climate Change
New NASA satellite studies demonstrate that wood smoke’s fine
particulates and “black carbon soot”
are major contributors to global warming - even more than greenhouse
If this isn’t a wake-up call to quell polluting
for fun, what else would convince us to stop burning?
Don’t Put Up With
Wood Smoke Trespass!
I found your newsletter
online while researching how to deal with my wood smoke problem.
A neighbour of mine in Toronto burns a wood stove (his only means of
heat!) 24/7. His wood is wet, and the
amount of smoke in our neighbourhood is unreal. He loads up the
stove several times per day and chokes off the
air-intake to make the heat last for hours. As a result, everything
just smoulders and produces an incredible amount of smoke.
My house is about 200 feet away, and I sometimes get smoke inside
even with all the doors and windows closed. I can tell the air is
polluted inside my home now that heating season has started.
This is ridiculous, especially in Toronto. Everyone else here is on
Please help - I need to find out what recourse I have in dealing
with this. What steps should I take to try and fix this situation?
I'm scared of being exposed to this health hazard, but no one else
on my block wants any confrontation with this guy.
Any advice you could offer would be most appreciated, as this is no
way to live.
Wood Smoke a Health Hazard to be Aware of!
Posted in the
Written by Cathy Baiton
Monday, 08 February 2010
The adverse effects of cigarette smoke are well-known,
but another source of second-hand smoke has become
noticeable in parts of our city, as more chimneys are
releasing wood smoke into the air.
In Canada and elsewhere, a movement away from
residential wood burning is beginning to emerge, in
light of ongoing research about its harmful effects.
Wood smoke actually contains many toxins similar to
those found in cigarette smoke, and components of both
types of smoke are carcinogenic.
The extremely fine particles in wood smoke can penetrate
deep into the lungs, and remain active in the body up to
40 times longer than tobacco smoke. Even short exposures
can trigger or aggravate allergy, asthma or other health
issues, and research shows that children in wood-burning
neighbourhoods have more lung and breathing problems.
Because the particulate matter is so fine, up to 70 per
cent of outdoor levels of smoke can enter homes nearby,
as U.S. studies have shown. Residential wood-burning
emissions are also a main cause of fine particle
pollution in many cities — in some areas, even more than
emissions from industry or vehicles. More information on
the air quality and health effects of residential wood
burning can be found at the excellent Burning Issues
website, at http://burningissues.org/.
A number of places, such as Montreal and Hampstead,
Que., have brought in public awareness efforts,
regulations and bans to help local air quality and
protect residents from exposure to wood smoke. Wood
burning can be an option in the country where homes are
widely spaced and the smoke can dissipate, but it’s very
different on residential streets where neighbours often
bear the brunt of smoke or fumes produced by chimneys or
fire pits nearby.
We’re fortunate to live in a region where
cleaner-burning fuels are available, which the American
Lung Association recommends using in place of wood
whenever possible. As the Lung Association of Quebec
says in an article about residential wood heating on its
website: “It is time to care about the air that we
pollute because it is the air that we breathe.”
As a parent, I also hope people will consider the
potential costs for the environment and health before
burning wood in residential areas, to help the air stay
healthier for everyone, in all seasons.
Back to top