Friday, April 24, 2015

April, cancer, and Woodstock's toxic air

During April ("Daffodil Month") the Canadian Cancer Society conducts its national fundraising campaign.
Ironically, April is also the month in which spring weather arrives, we can spend more time out of doors... and the air we breathe is often polluted with hazardous wood smoke from backyard fire pits.

The Canadian Cancer Society's website lists risk factors for lung cancer which include:
1) Second-hand smoke: "No amount of exposure to second-hand smoke is safe"
2) Outdoor air pollution.
Indoor burning of wood is listed as a possible risk factor.

Could we make connections?
Wood smoke is very similar in composition to tobacco smoke.
Wood smoke is a source of acute air pollution.
Wood smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  The Government of Canada lists PAHs as one of the main pollutants in wood smoke that cause health concerns, and explains:  "These compounds are a health concern because they can cause cancer".

The Ontario Fire Code prohibits most open air burning, thereby protecting citizens from wood smoke pollution.
Municipalities have to do an end run around the Fire Code by implementing a policy or passing a bylaw (as Woodstock Council did in May of 2013), thus condemning us to breathe wood smoke-polluted air during all the fine months of the year.

Is it too much to hope that the new Council might be concerned about the health of its citizens, and rid us of the Open Air Burning Bylaw?

References at right, under Websites:
Canadian Cancer Society
Healthy Canadians

The above text appeared as a "UR Opinion" on the Sentinel Review's website on April 24, 2015.

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