Fall Away From Wood Burning

By: Mollie Simon

RoastingMarshmallowThe nights are getting cooler, we’re making the switch from shorts to pants, and we are starting to remember our jackets before we leave the house. But unfortunately, with the beautiful colors of fall landscapes also comes dangerous wood smoke pollution for many neighborhoods across the state. How do you prepare yourself for the start of a long winter with wood burning nearby?

Wood burning and open fires conjure up memories of fun fall nights but we know that the unseen pollution and health risks are great. According to Environment and Human Health Inc. homes nearly three football fields away (850 feet) from an outdoor wood-fired boilers had six times the level of particulates as control homes. Even the smallest outdoor wood-fired boiler has the potential to emit almost one and one-half tons of particulate matter every year. Particulate matter is one of the greatest air pollution threats to health and is the pollutant most closely associated with deaths. The World Health Organization estimates that particulate matter worldwide is estimated to cause about 16% of lung cancer deaths, 11% of COPD deaths, and more than 20% of ischemic heart disease and stroke.map app

I See Smoke published a guide for how to talk to neighbors about what can sometimes be a difficult topic. Spreading information about the very real health impacts of wood burning is the strongest way to motivate someone to make better heating choices. The guide offers suggestions for how to start these conversations and how to present information in a respectful and strong manner.

Sometimes talking is not enough. I See Smoke also has an application you can use to report wood burning to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and to local health agencies. These are good options if communication is not getting through to the wood burner. It is also important to report burning to your local authorities in order to flag this as a priority issue for your township.

Through education, we can help spread the word that you do not have to have a fire in order to have a cozy fall or winter day. Burning wood threatens the health of your family and your neighbors. This fall, avoid burning wood and encourage your neighbors and family to do the same.

The I See Smoke App is here! Report smoke pollution with this easy tool

October 29th, 2014
By: Mollie Simon

For those affected by wood smoke pollution, the Clean Air Council’s I See Smoke program has rolled out a new tool that makes reporting violations and taking action easy. The new I See Smoke map allows users to find their location and share information and photos of the smoke pollution in their neighborhood.

iseesmoke base map

Full instructions on how to use the map can be found here

By using the app, community members fill out information about the pollution they see. That information then gets passed on to the Clean Air Council, the PA Department of Environmental Protection, and all appropriate county health agencies. This streamlines the reporting process and makes sure that all violations are being reported to the agencies that oversee air quality enforcement.

“As someone who has managed asthma since childhood, I am often afflicted by smoke pollution from open burning in Allegheny County,” said Don Van Kirk of Franklin Park. “It burns your eyes, stings your lungs and is more than just a nuisance, it is debilitating. This is a great tool to report violations”

Wood smoke pollution can be extremely harmful for those who live nearby. The burning of biomass, such as wood, results in high levels of soot, particulate matter, and carcinogenic material being released with comparatively little energy produced.  Everyone’s health can be impacted but especially children with their developing lungs and the elderly.

Check out this easy to use and innovative tool and report wood smoke pollution in your neighborhood. Speaking up for clean air will help to protect your health and the health of your community.