Friday, January 18, 2013

Air Time: Burn Bans Matter

Burn bans in Washington State come in several forms. Bans on burning your wood stove are called health burn bans.Bans on burning outdoors during summer are called safety burn bans.

Health burn bans are called by air agencies that closely monitor air pollution levels and weather conditions.Many western states, including Washington, have periods of air stagnation in the winter.During these cold, stagnant periods smoke will not rise and disperse but stays near the ground.This is especially true in mountainous areas where smoke will fill valleys, affecting everyone who lives there.

As the smoke pollution builds, the impact on health increases.Children, the elderly, anyone with a heart or lung problem, or even those with diseases like Lupus or diabetes, are at risk.The very small particles produced from burning wood enter the lungs and pass into the blood stream, stressing the body. Increases in emergency room visits during air pollution events are well documented.

Health burn bans seek to reduce wood smoke pollution before levels become unhealthy.These bans have two stages.Stage 1 restricts all outdoor burning, all fireplace use and the use of uncertified wood stoves.Stage 2 restricts all of these plus using any wood burning device, including EPA certified stoves or pellet stoves.

Safety burn bans are called by local fire districts.In some locations outdoor burning may be banned year round to protect sensitive populations.Even when outdoor burning is allowed, it is never okay to smoke out your neighbors.

The health effects from wood smoke pollution are very real so please respect others (and yourself) and honor these burn bans.Check with your local air agency, the department of Ecology or your local fire district before you burn.You can check for burn bans of all sorts at

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