Doctors and Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution

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Recent Research

The evidence continues to mount, and is now undeniable, that air pollution causes premature death. While the most vulnerable are the elderly and infirm, virtually all of us have our life expectancy cut short due to air pollution, because air pollution accelerates the aging process. Most air pollution deaths are caused by heart attacks and strokes.  

At the other end of the age spectrum, another landmark study followed 465,682 infants over a span of 6 years. The researchers found that extremely small increases in fine particle pollution — a mere fraction of the EPA's national standards — increased the rates of infant deaths, such as respiratory deaths and SIDS, a dramatic 200-300%. 

Removing Wood Stoves Proves Popular

A recent wood stove exchange that only allows the replacement of wood stoves with non-wood-burning sources of heating proved to be very popular in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) offered $800,000 in rebates to decommission and seal off a wood-burning fireplace; switch to a natural gas insert; or switch to an electric heat pump. The grants were snatched up within 15 hours of the start of the application period, which opened on January 16. 

There is no reason to waste money on programs that continue to promote polluting wood-burning appliances. There is a demand for clean heat, if agencies are willing to support the transition.

Survey: The Experiences of Wood Smoke Activists

One of our board members, Dr Michael Mehta of Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, is conducting a survey study and would like the help of people who are advocating against wood smoke in their communities. As he explains:

This study explores how wood smoke activists from around the world deal with personal challenges resulting from their advocacy work. Most activists who work in environmental and human health fields tend to have large and organized sets of institutional supports to rely on, and typicallly target industry or government. With wood smoke activism, many individuals are without support, often victimized and stigmatized in their communities, and face different pressures for going after wood burners. Such individuals are also likely to be exposed to wood smoke pollution themselves.

This work will provide these individuals with a comprehensive review of their situation and how it differs from others.

This research also expands on social movements research by examining a new and emerging class of actors who have been relatively ignored in the social science literature. 

More information and the survey can be found here:

On the Radio: PurpleAir Citizen Science Air Monitoring

Wood smoke pollution from residential and commercial wood burning is highly localized. Community regulatory air monitoring does not adequately reflect the levels of pollution that neighbors of wood burners frequently experience, which have been shown to be as much as 100 times higher than what is captured by community monitors. 

That is why we teamed up with PurpleAir, which sells Wi-Fi-connected laser particle counters. The particle counts from the sensors are displayed in real time on an online map, making it easy to see how air quality is affected by localized sources of pollution, including wood burning.

PurpleAir founder Adrian Dybwad was recently featured in a radio interview in which he talked about how he founded the company and about the technology behind the monitors. 

Personal Stories

If you haven't already, please consider submitting your personal wood smoke story for our website using our online form. We believe it's important to convey the human side of this issue as well as the science. (Image courtesy of Bill Lewin.)
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