As the federal government appears to be promoting use of wood and wood waste as a fuel (you will recall the EPA gave wood-chip and other biomass burners a three-year exemption from greenhouse gas requirements http://www.climatestrategies.us/articles/view/32 ),
we were struck by the provocative contents of the guest posting below by Julie Mellum, founder of Take Back the Air.
Wood smoke is deadlier than tobacco smoke
We’re snuffing secondhand tobacco smoke in this country, while wood smoke, far more toxic and concentrated, has risen like the phoenix in its place. In most metro areas and neighborhoods where people live and breathe, wood burning has been condoned and promoted as fun, family-friendly, healthy to cook with, and good for the environment. Restaurant wood grills and back yard campfires churn out black carbon soot like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
Everything we know about tobacco smoke is true of wood smoke.
Wood smoke is comprised of miniscule particulates that are bundled with legions of the same hormone disrupting and cancer causing toxicants that are in tobacco smoke. They include lead, arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde, benzene, and dioxins, some of the most insidious chemicals known to man. They are also “bioaccumulative”, building up in the environment and human lungs over time, where they increasingly ravage our health and that of future generations.
A terrible public health hazard. While back yard campfires rage across America and the biomass industry pours trillions of daily pollutants into our air, more and more people are becoming chronically ill from wood smoke entering their lungs on a continuous basis. Wood smoke is a well- documented trigger for asthma attacks and premature death in people of all ages, as cited by the EPA and US Centers for Disease Control. Children, the elderly, and anyone with asthma, other lung diseases and heart disease are most at risk. Wood smoke is also implicated in cancer, reproductive birth defects, neurological diseases such as autism, and compromised immune systems, paving the way for other disorders.
Most states have inadequate regulations to help those who are chronically ill from wood smoke inhalation. There is nowhere people can go for help, although private lawsuits are on the rise.
Property rights, wood smoke and the ADA. The perils of wood smoke are not limited to health effects. Wood smoke violates most nuisance ordinances and the property rights of others to use and enjoy their property smoke free. Cities claim they cannot afford to enforce such ordinances, but it is time they pony up to their accessibility requirements, for one. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires cities to provide “access” to public spaces such as parks, streets and sidewalks to those with disabilities such as asthma. Public spaces should be free of severe respiratory irritants like wood smoke in order to accommodate this skyrocketing segment of the population. In a precedent-setting ADA case, an Iowa district court ordered the town of Mallard to ban outdoor wood burning, because the smoke prevented a child with severe asthma from accessing public spaces.
How to get involved. If you agree that wood smoke is the scourge of our cities and needs regulation, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and request to receive the monthly online Wood Smoke Activist Network newsletter for the US and Canada. We facilitate connections among people in various states for a larger “voice” toward wood smoke solutions in our local and national governments.
By Julie Mellum
Founder, Take Back the Air www.takebacktheair.com
Member, Clean Air Revival, www.burningissues.org
Co-Editor, The Wood Smoke Activist Network Newsletter firstname.lastname@example.org
Author’s “Bio”: Julie is a wood smoke activist in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with connections to others nation-wide who are also concerned with this emerging topic. A Realtor by trade, Julie has also researched wood smoke issues extensively for the past 10 years and founded Take Back the Air to help enlighten the public about the top most hazardous, yet vastly under-recogized air toxics in residential communities, starting in our own back yards.