Posted by: Matthew | August 25, 2010

Wood smoke takes your breath away!

Vicki Morell of Vancouver, British Columbia understands the problem of wood smoke. She says:

“Wood smoke takes your breath away! What do forest fires, fire pits, wood burning stoves and fireplaces have in common? They all produce toxic emissions that make people sick and kill some. Burning wood is also the second leading cause of global warming. As the forest fires ravage British Columbia, polluting the air as far away as Saskatchewan, there is finally an open honest communication about the health hazards of smoke caused by burning wood. Health advisories appear on every newscast and on every radio and TV station all day long. Even healthy people are advised to limit physical activity while outdoors. People with weak immune systems and other respiratory and cardiac problems are advised to remain indoors with the doors and windows shut like prisoners in their own homes. I can’t help but ask myself why the health risks of forest fires are more openly communicated yet the other forms of burning wood are ignored as a severe health hazard. Imagine if forest fire smoke continued day after day all year long or even for a few months. Imagine being barricaded in your home, unable to enjoy your yard, garden, porch or patio, not being able to open a window or your door. Imagine your children not able to play in their own backyard, neighbourhood or nearby park? This is the current situation for anyone living near a neighbour’s fire pit, wood burning stove or wood burning fireplace. Many of us can not only imagine but live with this reality everyday! This is exactly the SAME smoke, and SAME cause – burning wood. People are forgetting or don’t know that much like cigarette smoke, wood smoke contains hundreds of dangerous air pollutants, gasses and fine particulates that can cause serious health problems such as: lung cancer, other cancer types, blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease like asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, and bronchitis; irritation of the lungs, throat, sinuses and eyes; headaches; allergic reactions; increased hospital admissions and even premature death. As fall is fast approaching, new wood piles are appearing in neighbourhood yards. The anxiety of dealing with more burning wood is truly frightening for some. Smoke entering and surrounding homes causes unbelievable panic and despair. Where is the help we need so we can breathe clean air in our homes, yards and neighbourhoods? Why do our politicians ignore the plight by those individuals effected by backyard fire pits and wood burning stoves and fireplaces? My heart aches at the calls I get, the stories I hear, the desperation, the despair and the glimmer of hope that soon fades away to anger and hopelessness when they realize that there is no help. What is considered an enjoyable pastime for a few is a smoky, smelly nightmare for others! What has happened to everyone’s right to breathe clean air?”

The emphasis is mine on “Where is the help we need so we can breathe clean air in our homes, yards and neighbourhoods?”

The help certainly isn’t found in the compliance and monitoring team of the Kapiti Coast District Council, that’s for sure. Unlike Vicki, the council workers at the KCDC do not understand about the real nature of wood smoke pollution.

We also have a Mayor in Jenny Rowan who claims to be all for the environment but she’s presiding over a district with huge air pollution problems and a council whose staff seem to be clueless. Air quality doesn’t even rate on her website. Jenny what can you do to make the air cleaner in Kapiti?

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