Personal Stories

We often hear about the right of people to burn wood in their home or their property. Or about how some can't afford other forms of heat.

Breathe Clean Air also hears stories about how wood smoke is impairing the health of adults and their children.

We hear about increased costs for medications, air purifiers and/or moving expenses.

We hear about how vulnerable people feel trapped in their homes because of the affects of wood smoke.

We hear about how some avoid walking or exercising in the outdoors they moved here to enjoy.

Below are stories from the Comox Valley and other Vancouver Island communities that highlight how wood smoke is significantly affecting people's lives.

Share your story!

If you'd like to share your own story of how wood smoke impacts your life in the Comox Valley, please email us!  We will keep the stories anonymous if you wish but it would help to know generally where you live.

You can also read more personal stories from other areas at Doctors & Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution. Two Vancouver Island ones have been included below.


Double the asthma medication, double the cost

by Jennifer, CVRD Area A, March 2020

I moved here 2 ½ years ago from the lower mainland. I found a lovely rancher with a pretty treed backyard with a stream running at the back. I felt instantly at home when I walked in the house. Having so few homes for sale at that time I chose it.

It wasn’t until more than a year later I became even more aware of the smoky chimneys in my neighbourhood. I noticed that I had doubled my asthma medication so double the cost....  Read full story.

Is it safe to go outside?

by Stella A. Chester, Comox, March 2017

I am someone who suffers from a hereditary issue, C3 protein deficiency (difficulty in fighting sinus and lung infections) that has now permanently affected the health of my lungs.

Air pollutants have been an issue over the years. Smoke from wood burning, and allergies to plants like broom often worsen my condition....Read full story

Diagnosis confirmed: Asthma ‘triggered by woodsmoke’

by Sherril Guthrie, Courtenay, March 2018

In August of 2017 I was diagnosed with asthma and, after a series of challenge tests and experience logging over time, it was confirmed that my asthma was triggered by wood smoke.  I’m not impacted by pollens, dust, humidity, allergies,  or even mould.  Those are not triggers for me.

It’s wood smoke and the chronic, unhealthy levels of PM2.5 here in the Comox Valley that have triggered my asthma. And sadly, it’s highly likely that if we hadn’t moved here four years ago, I wouldn’t be an asthma patient.... Read full story

If I had known...

by Clive Powsey, Cumberland, April 2017

I moved to Cumberland 12 years ago and the very first winter I noticed a deterioration in my respiratory health; it continued from year to year.

After about four years living here I started getting asthma, and each year it got worse. I have had pneumonia numerous times and coughed so badly once I gave myself a hernia which I had to have repaired. (I don't ever remember living in a place where so many people of any age get pneumonia. I've never been troubled with it prior to moving here).

Last year (2015-16) was the worst year of respiratory health since moving here. I used puffers all winter, had six respiratory infections.... Read full story

Cumberland: Choking in our happy home

cumberland20161128-crop-numpleby-jpgby Natasha Umpleby, Cumberland, June 2016

We moved to Cumberland 10 years ago and were excited to discover a welcoming community that was quickly morphing into an outdoor mecca for mountain bikers, hikers, climbers, etc. That, along with the affordable housing and cozy village feeling, was a big part of why we chose this community to raise our children in.

We started off in a house in a newer area of town where the concentration of wood burning stoves was a little less than some other areas. I noticed the thick wood smoke when walking my kids to school through the older neighborhoods. Some days were worse than others, but I didn't really think it was affecting our health.... Read full story.

Other Vancouver Island Stories

Skyrocketing Health Costs in Parksville

Bill-lewin-neighbour-(Parksville)by Bill Lewin

We have been inundated with wood smoke for the past 3.5 years. Our neighbors removed a gas fireplace and installed an EPA approved wood stove.

They did this because of the false claims of health departments, government agencies and the wood burning industry, that makes claims that the new stoves burn cleanly. Unfortunately for us, this has not proved to be the case.

The year before the neighbors installed their indoor wood stove, my wife was hospitalized for 3 months during which time she had MRI’s and chest Xrays that all came back clear.

However, in the fall of the 2nd year of the wood stove operating next door, she was diagnosed with COPD, which now costs us $300.00 a month to help her breathe.

This could only be due to the wood smoke we are exposed to in our own home from the neighbor’s wood burning.

Read Bill Lewin's full story on DSAWSP Personal Stories page.

Breathing easier after moving away from Chemainus

by Erwin MacDermid

During the winter months air quality is a real problem in Cowichan Valley, British Columbia.

I have asthma. During the winter of 2014/15 air quality within the Chemainus air shed became so bad I had to leave town looking for air where I could breathe. I was unable to sleep for 3 days due to the anxiety experienced from the inability to breathe. I was in to see my doctor weekly trying to cope.

In total I left Chemainus on three different occasions, for several days to reduce my anxiety.... At the end of it all I was forced to sell my home and move away. I now live in Osoyoos and have not experienced a single asthmatic event in 1½ winters.

The single most responsible source of smoke in my neighborhood was wood burning stoves.

Read Erwin MacDermid's full story on DSAWSP Personal Stories page.