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?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Open Air Burning and Dementia (To Council, #6)

If physical health problems previously discussed (cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, COPD, and asthma) aren’t enough reason to fear wood smoke, please be advised that there is evidence that PM2.5 attacks the brain, and leads to various forms of impairment, including dementia.

A recent study conducted in Ontario found a positive relationship between PM2.5 and dementia, and between nitrogen dioxide and dementia.  PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide are both components of wood smoke.

Here is an accessible article that quotes the study:

Follow that with this study from Sweden:
“Researchers at the Umea University in northern Sweden have studied air quality in homes where wood-fire stoves are used and found that inhaling smoke from the stoves may not only cause asthma and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, but can also enhance the risk of the onset of dementia...
"We have seen that people who live in areas where wood-fire stoves are common run a greater risk of being affected, and that also goes for people who live next to someone who uses wood-fire stoves,"...

Results from the Swedish study:
“The emission of PM2.5 from local residential wood burning was associated with dementia incidence with a hazard ratio of 1.55 for a 1 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5...
Study participants with an address in an area with the highest quartile of PM2.5 from residential wood burning and who also had a wood-burning stove were more likely to develop dementia than those in the lower three quartiles without a wood-burning stove...”

Wood smoke is hazardous to mind and body.

Why does Woodstock Council allow open air burning?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Open Air Burning and Asthma (To Council, #5)

You probably know someone who suffers from asthma; according to Health Canada, this chronic condition afflicts 12.1% of the population of Ontario.

If you have been following the news about the forest fires elsewhere in the province, you may have heard special warnings directed at people who suffer from asthma, as well as for those with COPD, or other respiratory or cardiovascular problems.

What you should realize is that inhaling smoke from neighbourhood fire pits is just as dangerous as inhaling forest fire smoke.

Here is more information from the Lung Association, Asthma Canada, and the Government of Canada:

“Breathing in wood smoke can cause increased respiratory symptoms, increased hospital admissions, exacerbation of asthma and COPD, and decrease your ability to breathe normally. If you have a lung disease, breathing in wood smoke can make your disease worse and cause a flare-up.”

“Exposure to smoke of any kind, whether the source is tobacco, marijuana, forest fires or camp fires, can be harmful.”

“Asthma is one of the most common chronic respiratory diseases in Canada. It affects Canadians of all ages, but younger Canadians are disproportionately affected.
Symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. There is currently no cure for asthma; however, it can be well controlled by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding allergens and other triggers, quitting smoking, and taking medication properly.”

The number of residents of Woodstock who suffer from asthma is probably close to 5,000.
(2016 census population: 40,902 x provincial asthma rate 12.1%) = 4,949.

Now that you know that wood smoke may be triggering asthma attacks in approximately 5,000 residents (many of them children), how can Woodstock Council justify continuing the practice of open air burning?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Open Air Burning and COPD (To Council, #4)

You probably know someone who is suffering from COPD; more than 10% of Canadians over the age of 35 are living with it.

Wood smoke can cause COPD, precipitate flare-ups, and lead to death.
Here’s what the Lung Association has to say:

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
In 80-90% of cases, it is caused by smoking. Other causes of COPD can include:
  • genetic reasons (alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency)
  • occupational dusts and chemicals
  • second hand smoke
  • frequent lung infections as a child
  • wood smoke and other biomass (animal dung, crop residues) fuel used for cooking.
Breathing in wood smoke can cause increased respiratory symptoms, increased hospital admissions, exacerbation of asthma and COPD, and decreased your ability to breathe normally. If you have a lung disease, breathing in wood smoke can make your disease worse and cause a flare-up.
PM2.5 (inhalable particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter) - PM2.5, which consists of a mixture of microscopic particles of varied size and composition, has been declared a toxic substance under the Environmental Protection Act. These particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs, leading to serious respiratory problems, including excess mortality, especially among those with pre-existing cardiopulmonary illness.

So we can add COPD to our growing list of health problems (cancer, diabetes, heart attacks) linked to PM2.5 and wood burning.

How can Woodstock Council justify the practice of open air burning?

The above text was sent by e-mail to each member of Council on July 18, 2018.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Open Air Burning and Heart Attacks (To Council, #3)

Saturday July 7 was a horribly smoky, unpleasant evening in my neighbourhood here in Woodstock.

Are you aware that wood smoke causes heart attacks?

The results of a recent Canadian study are summarized here:
“By comparing pollution data from three cities in British Columbia (Prince George, Kamloops and Courtenay/Comox) with hospital admissions, researchers from McGill and Health Canada found that rising concentrations of fine particulate air pollution caused by wood burning were associated with increased hospitalization for myocardial infarction. During the cold season, when pollution from woodstoves is at its highest, the risk of heart attacks among subjects of 65 years and older increased by 19%.
“We noticed that the association was stronger when more of the air pollution came from wood burning, says McGill University professor Scott Weichenthal, lead author of a new study published in Epidemiology.”

Here’s a statement from the American Heart Association:
“In sensitive populations, exposure to PM2.5 for even a few hours or days can trigger cardiovascular disease-related deaths from heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia, sudden cardiac arrest, and heart failure. Short- term increases in PM2.5 levels lead to the early death of tens of thousands of Americans every year.”

PM2.5 is a carcinogen.
PM2.5 increases the risk of developing diabetes.
PM2.5 causes heart attacks.
PM2.5 is a major component of wood smoke.

How can Woodstock Council justify the policy of open air burning?

The above text was sent by e-mail to each member of Council on July 11, 2018.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Open Air Burning and Diabetes (To Council, #2)

Last week I wrote to you about the cancer risk for residents due to exposure to wood smoke and one of its components, fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

This past Friday a new study was published in The Lancet Planetary Health, that links PM2.5 with DIABETES.

From CNN’s report on the study:

"There's an undeniable relationship between diabetes and and particle air pollution levels well below the current safe standards," said senior study author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University.
“Particulate or particle air pollution is made up of microscopic pieces of dust, dirt, smoke and soot mixed with liquid droplets. The finest particles regulated by the EPA are 2.5 micrometers; to put that in perspective, a strand of human hair is 70 micrometers, or more than 30 times larger.
Anything less than 10 micrometers can not only enter the lungs, it can pass into the bloodstream, where it is carried to various organs and begins a chronic inflammatory reaction thought to lead to disease.

From the study itself:
“The global toll of diabetes attributable to PM2·5 air pollution is significant. Reduction in exposure will yield substantial health benefits.”

8 years ago, the Sentinel Review reported that residents of Oxford County were already at a higher risk of diabetes, due to obesity.

PM2.5 is a carcinogen.
PM2.5 increases the risk of developing diabetes.
PM2.5 is a major component of wood smoke.
How can Woodstock Council justify open air burning?

I await your response.

The above text was sent as an e-mail to each member of Woodstock Council on July 4, 2018.