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newsrel -- Wood smoke is a serious threat to public health

Posted: 22 Jan 2009 11:16:16
New evidence supports efforts to curtail wintertime pollution

Release 09-06
January 22, 2009
Dimitri Stanich
(916) 716-8047

Wood smoke is a serious threat to public health

Fireplace smoke is major source of winter time air pollution

SACRAMENTO: Today, the Air Resources Board heard the results of
several studies that show smoke from wood fires aggravates lung
and heart disease and increases the number of hospital

"Today's report to the Board underscores the need for air
districts throughout the state to curtail fireplace burning when
air quality is suffering," said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. "This
starkly illustrates our need to continue reducing particulate
matter emissions."

At this morning's hearing, board members heard a presentation of
research results that indicate exposure to wood smoke may reduce
lung function and reduce the blood's ability to clot properly. In
addition, wood smoke exposure may also increase substances in the
body that lead to cardio-vascular and pulmonary inflammation.
These health threats could be particularly dangerous to those
with preexisting heart or lung disease.

ARB research staff reviewed four recent national toxicological
studies in presenting today's findings to the Board. The findings
support fireplace ordinances that many local air districts
throughout California are implementing.

The research found that wood smoke can cause a 10 percent
increase of hospital admissions for respiratory problems among
children. ARB estimates that between 20 to 80 percent of ambient
wintertime particulate matter is due to wood smoke. Studies have
found up to 70 percent of smoke from chimneys can re-enter a home
or neighboring residences.

Wood smoke consists of several pollutants, including carbon
monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and other
irritating and toxic components. California's wood smoke problem
and its pollution problem in general, are compounded by the
state's geography and weather. The many valleys and calm air
cause the pollutants to remain at ground level rather than be
swept away.

In several areas throughout California, air quality officials
are restricting residential wood burning on days when particulate
matter pollution is expected to be high. These and other
strategies are substantially reducing wintertime peak particulate
matter levels and therefore should reduce the risk of
cardiovascular hospitalizations and premature deaths.

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California
Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and
protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through
effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and
considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air
pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain
health based air quality standards.


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