FILM: Cost of Wood Heating

Breathe Clean Air is happy to launch a new film we had made about the cost of wood heating.

The nine-minute film features Dr. Charmaine Enns, the Medical Health Officer for North Vancouver Island and a number of local residents who are affected by wood smoke.

“Many like to think of wood heating as a pleasurable and inexpensive source of heat,” says Jennell Ellis, a volunteer with Breathe Clean Air who is also in the film. “But as the film highlights, children and adults who are exposed to wood smoke are experiencing very real costs to their health, to their emotional well-being and to their finances.”

The film outlines a range of known health effects caused by wood smoke, including asthma, reduced lung function, heart disease, lower birth weights, stroke and shorter life spans.

Dr. Enns notes that when there are spikes in fine particulates, which come from wood smoke in the Comox Valley, there are “associated spikes in hospital presentations especially for heart disease or underlying lung disease.” She also explains that many of the carcinogenic chemicals in cigarette smoke are also found in wood smoke.

“I often hear people say that someone who gets sick from wood smoke must be really sensitive or something, which they would never dream of saying to someone who gets sick from second-hand cigarette smoke,” said Ellis. “Wood smoke is just as toxic, and there is far more of it in our air.”

People in the film talk about impacts on their own health or the health of their families. Natasha Umpleby’s daughter has a diagnosed eye allergy to wood smoke.

Stella Chester talks about the emotional impact of being make sick by wood smoke.

Dr. Marie-clare Hopwood, a family doctor, expresses concern about the impact of wood smoke on her young children’s developing lungs and their future increased risk of lung and heart disease.

“I am really not sure why in 2018 we still believe that wood smoke isn’t causing harm,” adds Dr. Hopwood.

The film points towards the need for solutions as well. Ellis notes a number of approaches that can help clean up the air, including providing incentives for non-wood burning appliances, keeping other sources of energy affordable, capping the number of wood stoves, and protecting people in their own homes from the intrusion of wood smoke.

The film was made by J. Moors as part of the Comox Valley Art Gallery’s Youth Media Project. It is available above and on our “resources” page.

Posted in Children, Financial Cost, Health, Solutions, Wood Stoves and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .


    • Exhaust from cars is a very small part of our pollution problem in the Comox Valley (and in many smaller communities).

      For example, in less than 6 months a year, wood heat puts out 3 times as many fine particulates as all air, water and land transportation combined puts out over a whole year according to a BC Government report. And BC government’s Healthlink clearly identifies fine particulates as the number one air pollutant of concern.

      We believe it is important to put our energy and attention on the source of pollution that is causing so much harm, which Dr. Enns clearly explains in the video is wood smoke. After all, we are a small group of volunteers with very few resources so don’t you think we should give priority to the biggest source of pollution? In our area there is absolutely no doubt that wood burning is the greatest issue by far. And, as that is what is choking many of our volunteers out, that is the one we want to work on.

      Wouldn’t it be better to praise the work of volunteers who are trying to clean up our air by tackling the biggest source of pollution rather than telling them they are not doing enough? Perhaps you would like to tackle the car issue while we put our limited resources and energy into dealing with wood smoke pollution?

  1. Pingback: Wood not always the cheapest heat – Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley

  2. There is also the cost of treating wood smoke related diseases–something we all pay for through our taxes. The Australians estimate that each wood stove costs the health care system $4,000 each and every year. However they do not have Winters as we understand the term. Would $8,000 be a reasonable estimate for Vancouver Island ?

  3. Thank you very much. My longtime COPD and, esp. MCS/ES disabilities makes me thousands of times more instantly sensitive to many such toxicants. At now 82, diagnosed 1944 (COPD) in UK and 1974 (MCS) in Ontario I much appreciate this very excellent film and share it widely..

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