This page includes common questions about wood smoke issues. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please send email it to us.
We often hear the argument that burning wood is natural and that we have done it for eons. Well, we also used to die a lot younger.
We don’t continue to do a lot of things our parents, grandparents or ancestors did because we now know it isn’t good for us. Centuries ago they commonly bled people to help them get better. A few decades ago we used to smoke in planes, bars and restaurants.
“Natural” does not mean things are healthy. Lead, uranium and arsenic are natural. Coal dust is natural. Tobacco is natural.
All smoke is pollution and is unhealthy to breathe. In addition to fine particulates, wood smoke contains many of the same toxic things you find in cigarette smoke: dioxins, furans, formaldehyde, carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), arsenic, mercury and benzene.
There are hundreds of studies showing the negative health effects of wood smoke. It is time to clean up our act.
Affordability is a challenge for some; but that doesn’t mean the only option is to allow people to keep burning wood and polluting our air.
Here are three points to consider.
1. If people can’t afford car insurance, we don’t allow them to drive without insurance, for the public good. If people can’t afford to pay tipping fees at the dump, we don’t allow them to burn or dump their garbage elsewhere, for the public good.
2. Does the person burning wood deserve more consideration and protection than the asthmatic child living next door? While someone is burning wood to save money, others are paying increased costs for medications and air purifiers, and losing money for taking time off work for respiratory illnesses (see personal stories on our site). There are many families who can’t afford to move elsewhere to protect their health.
These people are just as important as others who say they can’t afford cleaner forms of heat (as are other taxpayers who are paying for the known extra costs to the health care system).
3. Wood smoke is a well documented public health hazard and our governments need to act to reduce this hazard.
Public policy solutions need to be put in place to help people transition to more affordable clean energy (e.g. through more and better rebates), to finance more energy efficiency retrofits (so everyone’s energy demand goes down) and/or to lower hydro rates so the cleanest form of energy is the cheapest.
Let’s find a solution that works for everyone.