Sunday, December 3, 2017

The holiday tradition we would be better off without (2nd edition)

Quiz:  What holiday tradition is bad for everyone's health, and also bad for the planet?
Hint:  "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."

Yes, that cheerful wood-burning fireplace that confronts us everywhere in image and song at this time of year, is actually a little toxic incinerator.

Burning wood, leaves, or any other biomass releases carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but perhaps the deadliest component of wood smoke is fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

In a joint publication, Public Health Ontario and Cancer Care Ontario identified PM2.5 as the third greatest environmental carcinogen in this province (way ahead of asbestos, formaldehyde, and second-hand tobacco smoke, for comparison).  Solar UV radiation and radon claimed the first two spots.
If that isn’t enough bad news, a recent study funded by Health Canada and conducted in B.C., found that heart attacks in seniors increased as the level of PM2.5 in the air increased.

This festive season, could we consider the health of everyone around us, and NOT light the fireplace?

Peace, goodwill, clean air, and good health to all.

Public Health Ontario/Cancer Care Ontario.  The Environmental Burden of Cancer

Biomass Burning as a Source of Ambient Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Acute Myocardial Infarction

Earth Institute, Columbia University.  The damaging effects of black carbon.

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