Thursday, November 28, 2019

Canadian Cancer Society (Why I no longer support this organization)

Like many health organizations, the Canadian Cancer Society condemns smoking, but turns a blind eye to residential wood burning.

Air pollution and particulate matter were both classified by IARC as Group 1 carcinogens in 2013.
Anyone near a wood fire is exposed to a megadose of particulate matter.

In 2016 Public Health Ontario and Cancer Care Ontario jointly published a report entitled The Environmental Burden of Cancer in Ontario, in which they ranked 23 environmental carcinogens.
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) ranked #3, far ahead of other well-recognized carcinogens such as asbestos, formaldehyde, and secondhand [tobacco] smoke.

Despite the evidence, the Canadian Cancer Society website has minimal warnings about wood smoke.

Using the website’s search function, there are no hits for the term “PM2.5”
“Particulate matter” retrieves the pages “Air Pollution and Cancer” and “Risk factors for lung cancer”, although neither links PM to recreational wood burning.
But wait; here it is!  Buried WAY down, under the heading “Pollutants from cooking and heating”, we find:  “Burning wood and other fuels, such as dung or grass...can also increase the risk for lung cancer.
And a second mention, on the “What is air pollution” page, where “indoor burning of coal or wood” is listed as a major source of indoor air pollution.
On the “7 ways to reduce your exposure to air pollution - indoors”, we finally find a piece of good advice: “Switch from a...wood-burning heat source...”, unfortunately followed immediately by this howler:  “...lower your risk by using efficient stoves and fireplaces with effective chimneys.”

There is no mention anywhere about RECREATIONAL wood burning:  backyard fire pits, campfires, or fireplaces.

Why isn’t residential wood burning treated like smoking?
This message should be upfront on the website, where the public is encouraged to “Make healthy choices”.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Heart & Stroke (Why I no longer support this organization)

Way back in 2009, H&S published a position statement entitled “Air Pollution, Heart Disease and Stroke”.
In this document they:
  • Linked air pollution with premature deaths
  • Recognized wood stoves and fireplaces as “sources of dangerous air pollution” and PM2.5
  • Described the ways PM2.5 affects the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Recommended that public take action to reduce air pollution by limiting wood burning
Strangely, a decade later, none of this information is reflected in the front end of the H&S website.
Evidence that air pollution, PM2.5, and wood smoke have a detrimental effect on the cardiovascular system has increased, and yet residential wood burning is not included among “lifestyle risk factors”.  There are no warnings about inhaling wood smoke.
“Particulate” and “PM2.5” retrieve nothing in the H&S website search function.

There is even Canadian research showing the link between heart attacks in seniors and wood burning:

Bizarrely, in 2017 H&S used an image of a fire pit in their lottery brochure:


The position statement can still be found [archived] on the website...if you know where to look:

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Diabetes Canada (Why I can’t support this organization)

More evidence of the general level of ignorance, even in the healthcare community, of the dangers of localized air pollution and biomass combustion.

Like other health-related charities, Diabetes Canada condemns tobacco use:

Smoking is a deadly habit. One of the best things you can do for your heart, diabetes and overall health is to quit now.

And then they post THIS image promoting their camps:  child and teens inhaling toxic wood smoke.

On their page “Diwali and Diabetes”, one of the gift basket suggestions is a source of indoor air pollution:

Although exposure to fine particulate is a known risk factor for the development of diabetes, the terms “particulate”, “PM2.5” and “air pollution” yield no useful results when searched on their website.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Lung Association (Why I no longer support this organization)

The Lung Association appears to be either
1) ignorant of all the health issues associated with air pollution, wood smoke, and PM2.5, OR
2) unwilling to offend or alienate the wood-burning public by telling the truth.

Concerning fireplaces, we are told to “burn smart”, properly install and maintain, store wood properly, and (laughably) “ a window a little bit to ensure a good supply of fresh air into your home.”  🤣🤣🤣
Did HPBCA, WETT, or another industry organization write this nonsense?
Shouldn’t the Lung Association condemn residential wood burning as strongly as it condemns smoking???

Do you have a fireplace in your home? Wood burning indoors can produce high levels of dangerous particles and gases that can be easily inhaled into the lungs. Be sure to "burn smart" if you use a fireplace.

Many Canadian homes have fireplaces for ambience and extra warmth. Some homes burn wood as the main source of heat. It is important to follow a number of key steps when burning any wood indoors.


  • Inspect your chimneys and flues annually for corrosion, blockages, and cracks that could let dangerous gases (e.g. carbon monoxide) enter your home.
  • When using your fireplace, open a window a little bit to ensure a good supply of fresh air into your home.
  • Do not burn plastics, newspapers, magazines, painted wood, or cardboard as they can all release dangerous chemicals into your home's air.
  • Make sure wood is stored outdoors, dried, kept off the ground, and loosely covered.
  • When installing a fireplace, be sure that it is installed by a certified contractor who will ensure proper installation and safety. Check to see if they are a Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) certified member.
  • Poorly maintained and inefficient fireplaces can lead to difficulty breathing, coughing, irritation of the lungs, and asthma attacks in sensitive individuals.
  • Ensure your wood burning appliances are being used properly and not causing breathing problems or making air unpleasant for your neighbours.

SHOCKINGLY  bad advice offered about outdoor burning:  
1) no distinction concerning fuels (wood, charcoal, gas, propane)
2) implying these activities are safe under appropriate air quality and weather conditions, and if “not located too close to the home”

In reality a wood burning fire pit will blanket an entire neighbourhood with toxic smoke.

Barbequing and sitting around the backyard fire pit are common Canadian summertime activities. It is important to use them properly to prevent any health issues from exposure to pollutants.

  • Monitor your air quality and weather forecast to determine wind conditions and any air alerts that may be occurring when you're planning on using a barbeque or fire pit. Try not to do any outdoor burning on a hazy or smog day, when the air quality reading is poor, or when there is no wind as it will keep wood smoke particles close to the ground where people can inhale them. Also, do not light a fire pit during windy conditions as this can cause sparks to fly around and cause the fire to get out of control.
  • Make sure your barbeque or fire pit is not located too close to the home as any drifting smoke can easily get indoors through windows or doors.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fire Pit Emissions (To Council, #8)

Today I would like to direct your attention to the 2013 decision by the South Coast Air Quality Management District in California, regarding beach bonfires:
Some key points to note:

“The particulate emissions rate per minute from one beach bonfire is equal to that from: 
  • Three average big-rig diesel trucks; or 
  • The secondhand smoke from 800 cigarettes. Wood smoke contains many of the same toxic chemicals as secondhand cigarette smoke.”

 “ fire pit in one evening emits as much fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) as one big-rig diesel truck driven 564 miles.”

“Smoke does disperse and is diluted as it travels downwind from a fire pit. An air quality model indicates that the concentration of PM2.5, the key harmful ingredient in wood smoke, decreases by about 98 percent at a distance of 700 feet from a fire pit...”

“Fine particles in wood smoke contain cancer-causing chemicals as well as common combustion pollutants such as nitrogen oxides. Numerous health studies during wildfires, and in communities where large amounts of wood or other biomass is burned, show that wood smoke causes respiratory irritation and an increase in hospital admissions for respiratory problems. Fine particles also can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases and are linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions.”

SCAQMD’s decision is that fire pits can remain if they are “located at least 700 feet from the nearest residence”.

I am waiting to hear your justification for allowing backyard fire pits in Woodstock.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Open Air Burning and Children (To Council, #7)

Just like second-hand tobacco smoke, wood smoke is hazardous to infants, children, and the unborn.

You are probably aware that in Ontario it is illegal to light a cigarette in a vehicle with a child on board, and it is also illegal to smoke within 20 metres of a playground or playing field.  Our provincial government is well aware of the danger posed to children from smoke inhalation.

Bizarrely, in Woodstock it is legal for many residents near parks and playing fields to light backyard fires, thus subjecting children and their families using these facilities to toxic wood smoke. 
Please ponder the irony implicit in the attached picture, taken at Cowan Park:  no  smoking, but a fire pit (one of many in the neighbourhood) in the background.

Here are some excerpts from the website of Doctors and Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution:
“Children are among the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of particulate air pollution. Children breathe faster and inhale more pollutants in proportion to their body weight than do adults. Their immune systems and organs are still developing.”
“Particulate pollution has been shown to affect lung function and lung development.”
“During infancy, the developing lung is highly susceptible to damage from environmental pollutants, including those from wood smoke.”
Recent research also suggests an association with increased exposure to fine particulate matter during pregnancy and an increased risk of stillbirth.”
“There is also growing evidence that fine particulate pollution, especially with increased levels of PAHs, can lead to impaired neuropsychological development and a lifelong lowered IQ.”
“As a society, we no longer think it is acceptable to force children to breathe secondhand tobacco smoke. It’s time to extend this attitude to wood smoke.”

Why does Woodstock allow open air burning?