New Study Shows Wood Burning Regulation Significantly Improves Public Health

May 15th, 2015
By: Mollie Simon

Last month, scientists from California released a report detailing the effects of wood burning regulation on public health in the San Joaquin Air Basin. Their findings confirm that regulations to limit or stop wood-burning save lives and make for healthier lungs.

Stacked_woodwikipedia

Source: wikipedia.org

In particular, this study looked at something called Rule 4901, a regulation first adopted in 1992 and amended in 2003, which aimed to reduce emissions of carbon monoxide and particulates from residential wood burning fireplaces and heaters during the burn season (November- February). This was accomplished by establishing no-burn days when air quality in the region was too poor. It also required the switch out of older burning units for EPA-certified cleaner burners. Furthermore, the rule established a public health education program to help spread the word about the health dangers of wood smoke.

And the rules worked. The study showed that after implementation, they observed reductions of 12%, 11%, and 15% in particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM2.5), and 8%, 7%, and 11% in coarse particles, in the entire San Joaquin Air Basin and in rural and urban regions of the air basin, respectively. Among those aged 65 years and older, the rule was estimated to prevent 7%, 8%, and 5% of cardio-vascular disease cases, and 16%, 17%, and 13% of Ischemic heart disease cases, in the entire San Joaquin Air Basin and in rural and urban regions, respectively.

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Source: publicphoto.org

 

This study confirms what common sense tells us is true. Limiting wood smoke emissions in a neighborhood or air basin can have a significantly positive impact on public health. Less particulate matter pollution means less heart and lung disease and healthier people.

This is why it is so important to fight for wood burning bans or limitations. This study shows that limiting wood burning helps protect members of the community. For more information about how to propose wood burning regulations in your neighborhood, please visit our action page.

EPA Air Standards for Wood Burners: Steps in the Right Direction But Not Enough

February 27th, 2015
By: Mollie Simon

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated their standards on outdoor wood-fired burners for the first time in 27 years. These updates are well overdue and will make new wood burners on the market cleaner and safer, while also allowing consumers to save energy and cut costs. Although these new regulations will make significant improvements, they do not go far enough for communities and neighborhoods already plagued with wood smoke pollution.

The science clearly shows that wood smoke pollution is dangerous to public health. Wood heaters and furnaces account for 13% of nationwide soot pollution. Particulate matter poisons our lungs and bodies. Biomass such as wood, when burned, gives off large amounts of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur oxides, in addition to volatile organic compounds.  All this pollution causes health complications like asthma, heart disease and other respiratory illnesses.

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A PSA from San Francisco Bay Areas’s Spare the Air campaign

With these new standards, emissions from wood burners will be cut by about two thirds. This will improve air quality and provide between $3.4 and $7.6 billion dollars in health benefits. In fact, every dollar spent bringing cleaner heaters to market will be accompanied with between $74 and $165 dollars in health benefits. That means less asthma attacks, heart attacks, emergency rooms visits, and days missed of school and work.

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Residential wood burning

So these rules are a step in the right direction. But the EPA could also be doing much more to protect people from wood smoke pollution. The rules released last week make improvements to wood burners on the market but do not address the wood burners already in use across the country. As many as 12% of homes across the Unites States burn wood as their primary heat source and all those thousands of wood burners will continue to pollute at unhealthy and dangerous levels. These rules also do not cover fireplaces, fire pits and chimineas, leaving other major sources of soot and particulate matter polluting at high levels.

These rules will help alleviate some wood smoke pollution. But the challenge is far from over. These rules are set to be phased in over a 5 year period, but those suffering from wood smoke pollution know that a 5 year phase out is too long to wait for new cleaner wood stoves. The EPA also needs to require yearly stove maintenance to ensure that stoves are maintaining their promised levels of emissions controls. Above all this, the EPA needs to require that all residents operating old units switch to newer, lower emission models so that the older models are brought out of operation. We need more action and leadership from the EPA on wood burning issues in order to fully address this problem in our communities

speak upIf you believe that EPA should take some of these common sense actions to further address wood smoke concerns, leave a comment for them here.

New Report Shows Wood Furnaces Pose a Threat to Community Health

October 10th, 2014
By: Mollie Simon

This week Environment and Human Heath Inc. (EHHI) published the first peer-reviewed article focused on the dangers of wood smoke emissions and wood burning devices. And the results were conclusive: wood smoke is a serious threat to public health. Wood smoke contributes to air pollution which can cause asthma, affect lung function, and cause cardiac arrhythmias and acute heart attacks.

“Wood smoke particles are particularly dangerous because they are small and thus are inhaled deeply into the lungs. The wood smoke particles contain many of the same harmful compounds found in cigarette smoke, and they are carcinogenic”

– Nancy Alderman, President of Environment and Human Health, Inc.

Wood smoke from outdoor wood-fired boilers (OWB), wood stoves and open burning, all contribute to air pollution. But it is the outdoor wood-fired boilers or wood furnaces that are the most harmful. It is estimated that an average OWB produces as many fine particulates per hour as 22 indoor wood stoves.

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This study showed that homes neighboring an OWB unit had “significantly higher particulate levels than control houses that were not near an OWB”. Homes nearly three football fields away (850 ft.) from an OWB unit had six times the level of particulates as control homes. That is four times the EPA’s air standard level.  And homes 240 feet away from an OWB had particulate level twelve times the levels of control homes, eight times the EPA air standard level.

This is troubling. Neighbors of those who use OWBs are exposed to an extremely high level of particulate matter with no way to move their homes to safety. Most states have no setback regulations but, for the few states that do, this study shows that they are not strong enough. Connecticut, for example, has a 200 ft. setback requirement, which would still put neighbors well within the danger zone of exceptionally high level of particulate matter pollution.

Dr. David Brown, public health toxicologist with EHHI said it best when he said, “Outdoor wood furnaces should be labeled with cancer and asthma warnings.” Current setback regulations do not protect public health. This means that we need to adopt stricter regulations and cleaner technologies to make sure that our neighbors have clean, safe air to breathe.

Want to learn more about Outdoor Wood-fired Boilers? Check out our fact sheet for more information.

Open Burning Hearing in Allegheny County

The Allegheny County Health Department public hearing on Open Burning http://www.achd.net/air/index.php  is coming up next week on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at 10:00 AM, in the First Floor Conference Room at Building #7 of the Clack Health Center, 301 39th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201 for proposed amendments to Rules and Regulations on Open Burning.  If you want to comment in person, please contact the Department at least 24 hours before the meeting at 412-578-8120.
Clean Air Council proposes for maximum health protection a “no burn alternative” for the amendments to Allegheny County Air Regulations.  https://iseesmokepa.org/2014/02/10/model-legislation-on-banning-open-burning/  Below are the direct links to the notice and the proposed regulation change:
Contact Thurman Brendlinger at brendlinger@cleanair.org or 215-567-4004, Ext. 104 if you plan on presenting comments or have questions about the issue. 

Allegheny County Offers Incentive to Replace Wood-Burning Heaters

Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is set to offer incentives for home owners who replace out-dated wood burning stoves (WBSs) and outdoor wood-fired boilers (OWBs).  New stoves and boilers must meet EPA emissions requirements, but many existing stoves are do not meet these standards.  ACHD’s program aims to help home owners replace these older, less efficient, and more polluting units with new EPA Certified WBSs and OWBs, or cleaner electric or gas powered units.  Allegheny residents can register before May 9th, 2014 to receive one of five $500 gift cards for an OWB or two-hundred $200 gift cards for a wood stove.  Existing stoves must be turned into ACHD on May 17th to receive one of the gift cards, which are redeemable at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Kmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GetGo and Giant Eagle.

For more information, check out the full article in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.

Open Burning Ban Update for Allegheny County

On January 21, 2014 Clean Air Council attended a Regulation Subcommittee meeting of Allegheny County Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee to present a “No Burn” Model proposal to the committee to consider for revision of its open burning regulations. The suggestion was supported by the American Lung Association in a letter to the committee.  Also attending the meeting in support of the model regulation was the Executive Director of Women for a Healthy Environment.  By consensus vote the proposal was rejected by the committee which pursued options less protective of public health.

As a follow up, Clean Air Council attended the March 11, 2014 meeting of the Regulation Subcommittee.  The Council did not comment on the specific wording changes of the regulation being addressed by the subcommittee proceedings.  The Council did comment at the end of the considerations that protection of public health was not being maximized by the County’s revised regulation and objected that it was being recommended to the full Allegheny County Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee in its present form.  The Chairman of the Regulation Subcommittee recognized the Council’s objection and invited  comment in the public comment period after approval by the whole Advisory Committee.