I See Smoke Releases Our First Wood Smoke Action Guide

By: Mollie Simon

WoWood smoke neighbor guide coverod smoke pollution is a problem facing residential communities across the country. But sometimes our concerns about a possible confrontation prevent us from taking that first step to initiate a conversation with a neighbor whose smoke is affecting us. Clean Air Council’s I See Smoke program was asked by residents to create a guide to help those impacted by wood smoke through the process of talking to our neighbors and illustrate how to take next steps if the problem continues.

You can view the guide here. Included in the guide are tips on how to begin the conversation, guidelines for how to approach your neighbor, information on how to take action when discussion isn’t working, fact sheets, and more.

 

Here are some of the biggest take aways:

  • Make a connection to your neighbor before bringing up the problem. People are much more likely to listen to a friend than an aloof neighbor. Even though you may be angry, try to put that aside and start the conversation off on a positive note.
  • Share your personal story—it may not have even crossed your neighbors mind that this is a big problem for you. Calmly explain how wood smoke is impacting your family’s health.
  • Have the facts and share them. Wood smoke pollution is not a well-known danger. By sharing the I See Smoke fact sheets, you can help illustrate some of the biggest negative health impacts of burning wood.
  • Be empathetic. Just as you want your neighbor to understand your perspective on wood smoke; it is important to take the time to listen to their concerns. We know that low costs or convenience should not trump health and safety, but it is important to know that wood burning could be seen by the neighbor as cost-effective option.

Starting the conversation is not always easy but sometimes taking time to sit down and calmly explain the problem to your neighbor can have a big difference. If you are dealing with a wood burning neighbor and need assistance, please feel free to reach out to I See Smoke PA.

Connect with us!

Website: ISeeSmokePA.org
Mapping app: wikimapping.net/wikimap/smoke.html
Facebook: Facebook.com/ISeeSmokePA
Twitter: @ISeeSmokePA
Email: Mollie Simon at msimon@cleanair.org
Phone: 215-567-4004 ext: 128

Hearing on Open Burning Regulations for Allegheny County

Join the Campaign

Join Clean Air Council  at the upcoming Allegheny County Health Department public hearing on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at 10:00 AM,  to voice your support and present you comments on a No Burn Alternative in Allegheny County.  The hearing will be held 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.
Contact Thurman Brendlinger, brendlinger@cleanair.org or 215-567-4004, Ext. 104 if you plan on presenting comments or have questions about the issue.

Click on the image below to view or download the entire fact sheet.

ISeeSmoke.ModelLegislation.OpenBurning

Clean Air Council Comments on Proposed Regulations for OWBs

On May 5, 2014, Clean Air Council submitted joint comments with Environmental Defense Fund and Hoosier Environmental Council on EPA’s rule proposing new source performance standards for residential wood heaters.  Current EPA standards for new wood heaters were issued in 1988 and have remained unchanged despite the Clean Air Act requirement that EPA review, and if appropriate, revise standards every 8 years.  More protective standards are more than 18 years overdue.  The current outdated standards do not cover hydronic heaters and furnaces (also known as outdoor wood-fired boilers and furnaces) as well as many other types of wood stoves.  Modern wood stoves, furnaces, and hydronic heaters are capable of achieving much lower emissions and higher efficiencies than current standards require, meaning new stoves can provide significant health and economic benefits to families across the nation.  The Council’s comments requested, generally, that EPA finalize more protective standards.  More specifically, the comments:

  • Examine the harmful impact of wood smoke on communities across the nation;
  • Highlight the tremendous health and economic benefits of the proposed rule;
  • Support the broad application of health-protective standards to furnaces, hydronic heaters and previously unregulated wood stoves;
  • Request that the proposed 2015 “Step 1” emission standards for wood stoves be made more protective by ensuring that certification extensions are not granted to high-polluting wood stoves;
  • Urge EPA to finalize the more protective proposed “Step 2” standards for new wood stoves, and require earlier compliance with those standards;
  • Urge EPA to finalize proposed Step 1 and Step 2 standards for new  hydronic heaters and forced-air furnaces, but require earlier compliance with Step 2 and include time-based emission standards for Step 2 units;
  • Support many of the improvements EPA has proposed in the test methods for these devises;
  • Recommend additional steps to ensure the integrity of compliance certification procedures;
  • Request EPA continue to require temporary hangtags for all new devices covered by this rule to help consumers make informed decisions about energy savings and public health; and
  • Respond to EPA’s request for comment on visible emission limitation

Health Impacts of Wood Smoke

Many people don’t think of wood smoke as a major health or environmental concern, but the truth is quite the opposite.  Wood smoke contains many harmful carcinogens in addition to sulfur, mercury, nitrogen-oxides, and carbon-dioxide.  Soot and ash are additional problems as they can work their way deep into lung tissue.  All totaled, one wood stove or boiler can have thousands of times the emissions of one using natural gas – contributing greatly to health and environmental degradation.

One of the principal problems with wood-burning is that the impacts are often local.  Wood smoke is released close to the ground from low chimneys or smoke stacks, where the soot and toxins mix with the ambient air.  This are is then breathed in by local residents, causing new medical conditions and aggravating existing ones.

Washington State has put together an informational booklet about wood-smoke, available here, that goes into greater detail about its impacts on health and the environment, best practices, and what you can do in your community.  Also check out our resource page for more information on biomass and the impacts of wood-smoke.