Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Air Time: Snuffing out smoke problems

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

I’ve written fairly often about the health risks associated with breathing wood smoke.

Here’s the latest news on that front – Ecology is providing money to our clean-air partners to help get rid of old, high-polluting wood-burning devices.

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. People with asthma and respiratory illnesses, children and older adults are most at risk.

A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles lead to about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in added health-care costs each year in Washington.

Pollution from fine particles has reached the point where a large portion of Pierce County has failed to meet federal health-based standards for that pollutant. That area is now considered to be in “nonattainment” status, an issue featured in this earlier “Air Time” post.

You can learn more about air quality issues in Pierce County at this website put together by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

And this video from the Pierce County TV public access channel also highlights the issue. The video shows Diane Bedlington, from Ecology’s Air Quality Program at our Northwest Regional Office in Bellevue, checking out the L Street monitoring station in Tacoma.

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