Friday, January 29, 2016

Letter to WEAC

Dear Woodstock Environmental Advisory Committee

I have followed with interest your anti-idling campaign, for which you are to be commended.

Given that air quality is of concern to you, I am puzzled why you have not addressed the issue of wood smoke.

To put wood smoke in the context of idling vehicles and anti-smoking bylaws:  air quality experts in California (SCAQMD) equate the per-minute particulate emissions from a bonfire to:
- the emissions of three average big-rig diesel trucks
- the secondhand smoke from 800 cigarettes.

There are links to this statement, to a variety of health and government websites, and to examples of superior legislation from other municipalities on my blog:

For a good overview of the dangers of wood smoke I particularly recommend: 
UPHE: 17 reasons to ban wood burning
Harris, Sam.  The fireplace delusion
Shufro, Cathy.  Wood stove smoke is killing us

Wood smoke is chemically very similar to tobacco smoke, and is a well-documented health and environmental hazard.  Residents of Woodstock suffer year-round from recreational burning of wood in fireplaces and fire pits.

On October 15, 2013, I addressed your committee on the subject of open air burning.
On February 12, 2014, I received an e-mail response from you which included the statement: "At this time we do not feel that there is enough evidence to support a passable recommendation to Council to ban open air burning in the City of Woodstock."

One might wonder why the committee would need assurance that a recommendation would be "passable".  Open air burning is prohibited by the Ontario Fire Code, and municipalities have to do end runs around this legislation by passing their own bylaws, as Woodstock did in 2013.

I am writing to you today to request that WEAC revisit this issue.

You could substantially improve local air quality and the health of residents by:
1) advising Council to revoke the Open Air Burning Bylaw
2) launching a public awareness campaign concerning the dangers of wood smoke.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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