Stories of Victims of Smoke
SURREY NORTH DELTA LEADER
Wood smoke crackdown mulled
By Jeff Nagel - Surrey North Delta Leader
Published: September 23, 2008 3:00 PM
Updated: September 23, 2008 4:18 PM
The crackle of a wood-burning fireplace may be a warming winter
delight for those who have one.
But opposition from neighbours who don't want to breathe the smoke
is spurring a new look at the issue.
Metro Vancouver officials say new research shows wood smoke is a
significant source of particulate, even in urban areas like Metro
And they're beginning to now considering whether more action is
needed to protect local health.
"While overall levels of wood smoke pollution may be higher in rural
areas, urban wood smoke may have a larger population-level health
impact because of the greater number of people exposed," says a
Metro Vancouver report.
An estimated 128,500 homes in Metro Vancouver have wood-burning
stoves or fireplaces.
The regional district estimates residential wood smoke contributes
about 10 per cent of total fine particulate matter in the air.
Last winter saw some days of poor air quality in Langley and
Chilliwack when fine particulate levels exceeded the region's daily
target limit, according to the staff report.
There's no proof household wood burning was directly responsible, it
adds, but says it was a contributing factor.
There were also "numerous occasions" throughout the lower Fraser
Valley when particulate spiked during cold evenings, but the
readings, when averaged out over 24 hours, were not high enough to
exceed the daily maximums.
Despite tougher provincial requirements for the sale of new
fireplaces and stoves, many older models still exist.
Metro fields plenty of complaints about household burning.
But air quality district director Ray Robb said enforcement is
tricky – authorities can only inspect the premises with the owner's
permission and it's tough to prove a particular home's chimney is
the source of local pollution without setting up expensive
"It's one of those divisive issues," Robb said, adding the regional
district is caught between those asserting their right to breathe
and their right to burn.
Leading the call for a crackdown is Vancouver resident Vicki Morell,
who has launched an online petition urging tougher bylaws in light
of the health hazard wood smoke poses.
"This is the new second-hand smoke," she says. "People need to know
how bad it is."
She cites U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that wood
smoke poses a 12 times greater lifetime cancer risk than exposure to
the same volume of tobacco smoke.
Fine particulate can penetrate deep into the lungs . Effects can
range from coughing and irritated eyes to asthma, bronchitis and
reduced lung function.
Morell has battled one neighbour who burns wood in a fireplace and a
second who burns even during summer months using a chiminea on his
"We can't open a window let alone a door without being invaded by
the foul stench of smoke," Morell said.
Authorities are powerless to intervene, she said, and the local
offenders continue to belch, spewing verbal abuse at anyone who
Morell believes the use of wood heat by those who have fireplaces
will climb this winter in response to higher heating fuel prices
unless action is taken.
Robb said Metro Vancouver is exploring three main options:
• Public education on proper fuels and operation;
• Offering incentives to persuade owners to replace existing
fireplaces and stoves with new, cleaner burning models;
• Tougher regulations.
Robb said enforcement could pose a challenge even if recommendations
coming back from a consultant suggest tightened bylaws are in order.
That study is to be complete by the end of this year.
Metro has applied to join a provincial wood stove exchange program
that would subsidize the installation of fireplace inserts here that
promise to cut fine particulate emissions by 70 per cent.
Current Metro Vancouver bylaws bar fireplace users from burning
anything other than wood, paper or natural gas, and that burning be
in line with "recommended operating procedures and in a manner which
Presentation – Feb.26.07
like to draw your attention to the serious health issue of wood
burning in unregulated stoves and fireplaces in residential
50% of winter smog is caused
by wood burning. Wood
burning produces toxic by-products such as dioxin, carbon
monoxide, furans and small particulates which damage
delicate lung tissue; some components of WS are carcinogenic.
WS contributes to asthma in children, lung and cardiovascular
disease, and cancer in adults, particularly seniors.
Tax-subsidized EPA stoves are only slightly less polluting and
probably will lead to more burning.
cannot escape these dangers as WS from neighbouring chimneys
enters our home constantly even when our windows are closed. As
a result we suffer from damaged / irritated eyes, heart pain,
severe headaches, daily fatigue and breathing difficulties from
lack of fresh air as oxygen feeds wood fires.
Beaconsfield* propose to alleviate the dangers and nuisance of
wood burning in the city by a minority** of burners? A
written response would be most welcome.
Thank you for your attention to this vital issue, Joan,
Nathalie and Henri Doiron
Beaconsfield could alleviate the dangers and nuisance of wood
burning in the city through using By-law 418.
of residents burn wood regularly. The majority are being
polluted by this small minority which remains unregulated.
Recent surveys showed that 86% wish an end to toxic wood
CLEAN QUEBEC’S AIR – BAN WOOD-BURNING!
Wood-burning (WB) causes sickness in children &
others (asthma, cancer, lung, heart disease, COPD,
EPA stoves emit
dangerous particulates as even the EPA
health committee reports* - MDDE wants to mistakenly
fund EPA stoves – taxes must support conversion to
gas or electric fireplaces - not WB
WB smoke toxicity
forces us out of our homes & lowers house values
precious hardwood forests – trees needed to clean
our air & stabilize the earth
Burners are being charged by WB victims - resulting
in court fines well over one $ million
WB is a major
cause of fatal fires in Québec
Wood smoke is
chemically active in the body 40 times
NETTOYEZ L’AIR DU QUÉBEC BANNIR
LECHAUFFAGE AU BOIS!
*Le chauffage au bois cause des maladies chez les
enfants et d’autres (l’asthme, le cancer, les maladies
du cœur, etc)
* Les poêles EPA émettent des particules dangereuses
telles que stipulé par le rapport du comité desanté de
l’EPA – MDDE veut sub-ventionner les poêles EPA par
erreur- nos taxes doivent encourager la conversion aux
poêles électriques ouau gas – pas le chauffage au bois
* La toxicité du chauffage au bois nous force de quitter
nos maisons et décroît la valeur de nos maisons
* Le chauffage au bois détruit nos arbres – qui sont
nécessaires pour nettoyer notre air et enrichir la terre
* Les gens qui chauffent au bois se font poursuivre par
les victimes - résultant dans des amendes coûteux
* Le chauffage au bois est une cause principale des
incendies fatales au Québec
* La fumée du chauffage au bois demeure présent dans le
corps 40 fois longtemps que la fumée de cigarette
Dirty Little Secret Up in Wood Smoke
By KAREN KORENOSKI and MICHAEL YATES
Boulder, Colorado take pride in the city’s liveability. The town has
won “more accolades than any other city in America for its
recreation, culture, health, business climate, and overall quality
of life.” It has been voted “Number One Best Place to Live” and
“Best Overall Place to Live”; it is among “The Best Small Cities”
and the “Top Ten Places to Retire”; it is “Number Four Heart
Healthiest City”; it is in the “Top Ten of World’s Greener Cities”;
it is a city that is “Making a Difference in the Environment”; and
it is in the “Top 20 Greenest Spots in the Country.” We have lived
in Boulder for eight months, and we can attest that it is beautiful.
Unfortunately, the city’s “accolades” neglect a dirty little secret.
We moved to Boulder from Tucson, Arizona after one of us underwent
major surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. We have always been
concerned about the environment, but such a serious illness made us
more so. Tucson was just too polluted, congested, hot, and stressful
to stay. So we looked for a place that was the “anti-Tucson.”
Boulder seemed to fill the bill. We could decompress from months of
trauma and begin to rebuild our lives.
We rented a downtown apartment in February, on the top floor of an
It was removed enough from the main street to be quiet, a bonus in a
college town. From our bedroom window we could see Mt. Sanitas; from
our balcony we could admire the spectacular western sky over the
eastern plains. If we turned right from the building’s front doors,
we could walk to steep and challenging hiking trails that led up
into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains; if we turned left, we
could enjoy the shops, bookstores, restaurants, and street musicians
of the traffic-free Pearl Street Mall. It looked like we had found
the perfect place to heal.
The first sign that something was amiss happened a few days after we
signed our lease. We noticed a plume of black smoke coming from a
chimney on a roof directly below our patio. It turned out that we
were next door to a restaurant that used a wood-burning oven,
something that the landlord failed to tell us. A few months later, a
second wood-burning restaurant opened, with its chimneys on an
Our dream apartment turned into a nightmare. Every day, beginning in
early morning, smoke from the ovens rises in steady plumes above the
chimneys. This goes on, with the occasional break, for nearly twelve
hours, seven days a week. The smell is so obnoxious that we cannot
open windows or use our balcony, and it is so strong that it often
permeates our living quarters. Our noses are runny; our throats are
sore and scratchy; and we have a hard time breathing.
The two restaurants we have come to despise are named The Kitchen
and Salt. Like many businesses in Boulder and quite a few other
restaurants, these eateries claim to reflect Boulder’s refined
environmental consciousness. The Kitchen says on its website: “The
Kitchen believes in protecting our environment. Wind power provides
100 percent of the restaurant's electricity and we recycle or reuse
nearly 100 percent of our discards. All of our paper products and
straws are biodegradable. We give the remaining uncooked food and
open bottles of wine to our staff at the end of each shift and all
of our food discards are composted and often find their way back to
the farms they came from.” This eatery has garnered many awards and
citations for its commitment to the environment: “West’s Greenest
Restaurant” (Sunset magazine, 2008) and Number 6 in “Top 10 Best
Eco-friendly Restaurants” (Bon Appetit, 2008). It prominently
displays a PACE decal in its window (Boulder County’s Partners for a
Salt has joined the environmental bandwagon. One reviewer gushed
about Salt’s love for Mother Earth: “. . . Salt will walk the
sustainability talk,” he says, “. . . [doing] all the little things
The Kitch[en] does so well.” Salt’s chef described himself to
another reviewer as “Johnny Local,” referring to his use of local
organic farm produce. “We’re doing fun, affordable, simple, seasonal
food and supporting those who do right by Mother Nature. . . . We’re
taking our food away from corporate greed and making good choices by
buying as much as we can on a local level.” (This is amusing given
that, as one blogger put it, “word on the street is that Salt’s . .
.well-established Boulder area chef, and his team of investors, put
in a million dollars in their renovation . . . .”---none of this in
search of profit, we are to suppose).
While restaurant wood smoke has damaged our quality of life, it is
doing much more than this. It is, in fact, a definite and
well-established danger to the public’s health. A few examples will
suffice. First, wood smoke contains numerous toxic substances, many
of which are also found in tobacco smoke. A few of these are
chlorinated dioxin, carbon monoxide, methane, volatile organic
compounds, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter. Second,
some wood smoke components are known carcinogens, including benzene,
formaldehyde, and toluene. A Google search of “wood smoke and
cancer” yields thousands of entries. Third, wood smoke is definitely
correlated with many other diseases and health problems, such as
asthma, allergies, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD),
high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks, just to name a few.
Children, the elderly, and people with existing lung and other
diseases are especially susceptible to the harm done by wood smoke.
Wood smoke “should be actively avoided” by such persons, according
to the American Lung Association. Fourth, exposure to wood smoke can
weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to disease and
weakening our ability to recover from both diseases and treatments
such as cancer therapies.
Irony and hypocrisy abound here. These restaurants do not allow
smoking. Yet, wood smoke is more dangerous to health than cigarette
smoke; it penetrates deeply into the lungs and takes more time to
dissipate in the air. It is chemically active in the body forty
times longer than tobacco smoke. One study showed that a restaurant
that burned wood but was non-smoking was similar in terms of
pollution to a restaurant without wood-burning equipment but which
allowed smoking. The chefs claim to be concerned with the
environment; one local reviewer has called businesspersons like them
“greenpreneurs.” Yet, their kitchen equipment spews dangerous
particulate matter into the air hour after hour, year-round (and we
won’t even go into how the health of the kitchen workers and patrons
is affected by the wood-burning ovens, grills, and rotisseries, or
the sources of all those truckloads of wood). The owner of the
building that houses one of the restaurants is a rich and generous
philanthropist who donated millions of dollars for the building of a
first-class cancer center in Boulder. How is it that he can condone
the releasing of carcinogenic smoke into the town’s atmosphere? We
spoke with him, and he seemed oblivious to the problem.
We know that, other things equal, wood smoke raises the mortality
rate. As researcher Peter Montague tells us, "To summarize bluntly,
any increase in fine particles in the atmosphere kills someone. The
victims remain nameless, but they have been deprived of life all the
same." Tens of thousands of people in the United States die every
year from particulate pollution, to which wood smoke is an important
contributor. Worldwide, the World Heath Organization estimates that
there are nearly three million premature deaths worldwide from
exposure to wood smoke.
We have complained to public officials in Boulder, and while some
have not even bothered to return our calls (one is the city’s
Environmental Affairs Manager), others have done what they could.
One agency asked The Kitchen to clean its word-burning equipment so
that the emitted smoke met the city’s opacity requirement. However,
in the absence of a prohibition of the use of wood-burning devices,
something that England enacted in 1956, Boulder cannot prevent their
use, which means that heath-debilitating smoke will continue to
permeate the city’s air. Besides The Kitchen and Salt, there are at
least half a dozen more restaurants that use wood-burning equipment,
all in an area about one mile square. We have begun to publicize the
dangers as best we can and will continue to do so, in the hope that
sooner or later citizen complaints will generate official action.
Peasants in poor countries cut down trees for wood fires to heat
their homes and cook their food. This does tremendous damage to the
environment. The peasants suffer disproportionately from the
smoke-induced health problems described above; there is even a name
for one infection common among them--“hut lung”). The deforestation
that provides the wood makes their surroundings more susceptible to
floods, mudslides, and drought. However, those who cut down the
trees and burn the wood are desperately poor and have no real choice
in the matter. Our restaurateurs, on the other hand, do have
perfectly viable and probably cheaper choices. They do not have to
use wood-burning appliances. We cannot think of a single
justification for them. We doubt that many patrons could tell the
wood-smoked food from any other. And even supposing that food cooked
with a wood fire tasted marginally better, so what? The taste
differential cannot possibly justify using wood when there are such
obvious health hazards. What excuse is there for Boulder or any
other city to continue to allow restaurants to employ this dirty,
dangerous, and unnecessary cooking practice?
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