I just sent out this news release on Saturday, Jan. 1, to media throughout Eastern Washington and to various listservs ...
Cold, stagnant air throughout Eastern Washington is trapping smoke pollution near the ground, worsening air quality and prompting the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to issue burn bans in several counties.
Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans take effect at 4 p.m. today (Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011) and will continue until at least 10 a.m. Monday (Jan. 3, 2011) for these counties:
- Asotin, Garfield, Columbia, and Walla Walla counties in the southeast.
- Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan, Chelan, and Douglas counties across the north.
- Kittitas County on the east slopes of the Cascade Mountains.
Stage 1 bans apply to unnecessary use of uncertified wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces, and to all outdoor burning.
Smoke from outdoor burning, wood stoves and fireplaces is likely to build up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.
“We’re starting the new year with generally increasing concentrations of fine smoke particles across Eastern Washington,” said Clint Bowman of Ecology’s Air Quality Program.
Under a Stage 1 ban:
- Use of fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves and uncertified inserts is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.
- All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.
- Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.
A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington.
For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/burn_ban.htm.
The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution should limit the time they spend outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse.
Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.
You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It’s very similar to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s national information tool, the Air Quality Index (AQI). Both use color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.
The difference is that WAQA shows that air quality is unhealthy earlier, when fewer fine particles are in the air. For more information, see this Ecology focus sheet.
See a list of certified wood stoves and clean burning tips.