Monday, May 3, 2010

Air Time: Focus this week on air quality issues

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

This is national Air Quality Awareness Week. So in recognition of that, Ecology’s Air Quality Program is offering a look this week at some key Washington air issues.

Outdoor Burning

Let’s start with outdoor burning (also called “backyard burning” and “residential burning”). When we talk about outdoor burning, we mean burning of yard waste, such as leaves, grass, brush and other yard trimmings; and burning to clear land of trees, stumps, shrubbery, or other natural vegetation.

Ecology regulates all types of outdoor burning except forest burning, which is regulated by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Outdoor burning is illegal in most parts of the state. See more information on outdoor burning.

You might say, “What’s so bad about burning my yard waste? Haven’t people been doing that for years?”

Yes, they have. You could look at burning yard waste as a habit – one that’s similar to smoking cigarettes.

That’s not too much of a stretch. Smoke from burning yard waste contains some of the same chemicals that are present in cigarette smoke. And like cigarette smoke, breathing in the tiny, toxic particles in smoke from outdoor burning can cause serious health problems like asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and lung cancer.

You can read an Ecology study that details how particles from smoke and other sources contribute to health problems and health-care costs in Washington.

Yard Waste

We encourage people to put their yard waste to productive use instead of burning it. You can chip it or compost it, and then use those materials around your property in a variety of ways.

Learn more about what to do with yard waste - this page includes a clickable map of the state that lists county-by-county alternatives.


By the way, outdoor burning also can trigger uncontrolled wildfires … and it just so happens that this is also Wildfire Awareness Week! (It’s also School Nutrition Employee Week, National Wanna Play Music Week, State of Nevada Employee Appreciation Week, and many other things. But I digress.)

Watch for a blog post in a few days about a joint Ecology-DNR project that aims to reduce dangers from wildfires and smoke pollution.

Next up: How properly maintaining your car saves money and reduces air pollution.

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