Saturday, August 9, 2014

Air quality and Woodstock's "burning" problem

"The public has the right to breathe clean air".

So states the City of Woodstock's "Smoking in workplaces and public places bylaw" brochure. Unfortunately this "right" does not extend into residential areas and backyards, due to the city's Open Air Burning Bylaw.

Why should we be concerned about the wood smoke coming from fire pits?
Wood smoke contains many of the same toxic substances as tobacco smoke, including carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and dioxins, as well as fine particulate matter (a major component of smog). Those most in danger from wood smoke are children, seniors, and anyone with asthma or other lung or heart conditions. If you can smell the smoke, you are inhaling the toxins.

Authorities in California have equated the particulate emissions rate per minute from a bonfire to that produced by the secondhand smoke from 800 cigarettes. We know to protect our children from secondhand tobacco smoke, but who is running around the fire pit at backyard gatherings, and asleep in nearby homes?

It may come as a surprise to readers to learn that millions of Ontarians are protected from open air burning by the Ontario Fire Code... but not residents of Woodstock, due to the Open Air Burning Bylaw, under which permission to burn is readily granted.

Further information about the bylaw, including the number to call "If you're concerned about an open-air burn" can be found on the City's website.

For further reading, including the sources for the above information, search online "clean air for Woodstock".
The above text appeared as a "UR Opinion" on the Sentinel Review's website on May 22, 2014.

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