Blame Wood-Burning Stoves for Winter Air Pollution and Health Threats

By Michael D. Mehta, EcoWatch, 3/12/19

It may be natural, but there’s nothing safe or environmentally sound about heating your home with wood.

The World Health Organization has ranked air pollution and climate change as the top health threat for 2019. One in nine deaths around the world are due to air pollution.

In Canada, air pollution kills nine times more people than automobile accidents. My own research shows that in rural British Columbia the main source of winter air pollution is residential wood burning, and that it is mostly being ignored and rarely monitored by government.

Health Hazard

Wood smoke may smell good, but it is not good for you.

The main threat comes from the cocktail of tiny particles and droplets that are about 2.5 microns in diameter (also called PM2.5). Due to their size, they easily work their way into our lungs, bloodstream, brain and other organs, triggering asthma attacks, allergic responses, heart attacks and stroke.

Chronic exposure to PM2.5 is linked to heart disease, lung cancer in non-smokers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Type II diabetes and dementia.

Wood smoke affects everyone, but children are especially vulnerable in part because their respiratory systems are under development. Pregnant women exposed to wood smoke may have children with smaller lungs, impaired immune systems, decreased thyroid function and changes to brain structure that may contribute to difficulties with self control. Children who are hospitalized for lower respiratory tract infections are more likely to have a wood stove in the house, although other factors may also play a role.

The elderly are also at risk. A recent study of people living in BC, in Kamloops, Prince George, Courtenay and the Comox Valley, showed that wood stove pollution significantly increased the rate of heart attacks in people over 65.

And that nice smell? It comes from benzene, a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) and acrolein.

With the dozens of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in wood smoke, it’s inconsistent for governments to ban smoking and vaping in public places while ignoring the smoke from wood stoves and fireplaces….

read more and follow links to more info at EcoWatch

Advertisements

Don’t Spray Me! then and now

Don’t Spray Me! began three and a half years ago, when several of us circulated a petition calling on the County Health Department to cancel its plan to West Chester’s Marshall Square Park. The claimed justification was, as it still is every time a neighborhood is sprayed, that distributing insecticide through the air was the last resort in protecting the good people in the Marshall Square Park area from West Nile Disease.

We pointed out that West Nile Virus is extremely rare in Pennsylvania and that mosquitoes could not possibly be breeding in Marshall Square Park, because. it is on a slope with no stagnant water. But what made the difference was the support of then Mayor Carolyn Comitta, who asked the County to delay spraying, which it did. Then, in early September, the weather shifted and the supposedly dire threat went away.

We then took to the social media to promote our view that spraying is damaging to human and environmental health. At early post representing our views was “Mosquito spraying: why doesn’t the county want to talk about it?,” first published in The Times of Chester County, 8/13/15. Our Facebook page has also been very helpful in reaching out to the public.

We now have over 550 supporters, about 3/5 of them in West Chester Borough and 2/5 elsewhere in Chester County. Our Board of Directors meets regularly to chart our direction, and we hold many events a year to reach out to the public, about a dozen in 2018.

At first, we joined in the West Nile Task Force with The County Health Department and West Chester Borough. That effort essentially ended a year ago, when it became clear that the County would not defer to a municipality’s desire to avoid being sprayed and meetings were no longer convened.

We have found it helpful to join forces with like-minded non-profit organizations. We are grateful to Sierra Club for, early on, making Don’t Spray Me! a Conservation Committee of the Southeastern PA Group and also to Sierra Club’s Grassroots Network for a grant that enabled us to hire our 2018 summer intern.

In the last year, we have also teamed up with other organizations within the Chester County Environment Alliance and West Chester Green Team. We believe that banding together with like-minded organizations helps us all to project our respective messages and the overall principle of protecting environmental and human health.

In our case, our message has expanded from resisting unnecessary insecticide spraying to educating the public and public officials and employees about the dangers of pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic chemicals that all too often make their way into our lives, homes, gardens, lawns and environment.

(See also our 2018 annual report here.)

Next installments in our story: using Pennsylvania’s Right To Know law, what people and municipalities can do, and specifically larviciding to prevent mosquito breeding in standing water.

“Non-toxic lawns & gardens and weed-free sidewalks”

“Non-toxic lawns & gardens and weed-free sidewalks”
Presented by Don’t Spray Me! and the West Chester Green Team.

Two related talks with discussion and Q&A: non-toxic ways to grow great lawns and vegetables and to keep weeds out of sidewalks

Business and Public Management Center, 50 Sharpless St., West Chester 19382

Q&A, activities for children, refreshments, tour of the LEED-certified Business and Public Management Center, community group displays.

More info: mhudgings@gmail.com

Sidewalk teens DLN 7:17:17

The problem with salt

from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Drinking water
— Salt has contaminated groundwater in some areas of the state; 75% of Minnesotans rely on groundwater for drinking water. Excess salt could affect the taste and healthfulness of drinking water. Twenty-seven percent of monitoring wells in the Twin Cities metro area’s shallow aquifers had chloride concentrations that exceeded EPA drinking water guidelines. Thirty percent of Twin Cities wells had chloride concentrations that exceeded the water quality standard.

Fish and aquatic bugs
— High amounts of chloride are toxic to fish, aquatic bugs, and amphibians. Chloride can negatively affect the fish and insect community structure, diversity and productivity, even at lower levels

Plants — Road salt splash can kill plants and trees along the roadside; plants that take up salty water through their roots can also suffer. Chloride in streams, lakes, and wetlands harms aquatic vegetation and can change the plant community structure.

Soil — Salt-laden soil can lose its ability to retain water and store nutrients and be more prone to erosion and sediment runoff (which also harms water quality).

Pets — Salt can sicken pets that consume it, lick it off their paws, or drink salty snow melt/runoff. It can also irritate their paw pads.

Wildlife — Some birds, like finches and house sparrows, can die from ingesting deicing salt. Some salt-sensitive species are particularly at risk.

Infrastructure — Chloride corrodes road surfaces and bridges and damages reinforcing rods, increasing maintenance and repair costs.

Read the full post at Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. See lots more info on road salt pollution in “Road salt is polluting our water. Here’s how we can fix it,”  MPR News, 12/7/17

The first photo was taken in West Chester, 3/4/19, with excess salt lying at the left side and center of the dry alley, but passing cars have scattered the salt away from the parts of the pavement where it could melt any snow that the tires of cars could actually come in contact with. The darker lines running along the alley are brine, which does not scatter to the edges and middle or into adjoining soil. though it may be worn down and distributed into the air.

salt-in-alley-34-19-e1552221110386.jpg

The second photo shows the same alley the same day. The blue-green spots on the fence contain road salt projected widely and forcibly from the salt-spreading truck;. You can also see salt crystals lying on the ground behind the rose bush and melted spots where they have landed in the snow which have to be removed by hand to prevent the salt from soaking into the ground and killing off the sorts of alleyside plantings that help keep the Borough beautiful.

Salt on fence