Below are 18 reasons why wood burning should be banned in urban areas, from Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment:
1. All air pollution is not created equal. Wood smoke is one of the most toxic types of pollution in most cities.
2. Lifetime cancer risk is 12 times greater for wood smoke compared to an equal volume of second hand cigarette smoke.
3. Burning 10 lbs. of wood for one hour, releases as much PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) as 35,000 packs of cigarettes.
4. Toxic free-radical chemicals in wood smoke are biologically active 40 times longer than the free radicals in cigarette smoke.
5. Wood smoke is the third largest source of dioxins, one of the most intensely toxic compounds known to science.
6. The very small size of wood particles make them seven times more likely to be inhaled than other particulate pollution.
7. Wood smoke easily penetrates homes of neighbors creating concentrations up to 88% as high as outdoor air.
8. If you smell wood smoke, you know you are being harmed. The sweet smell comes from deadly compounds like benzene. Once you can smell the smoke you know the concentration of particulate matter is dangerously high.
9. The most dangerous components of air pollution are much higher inside homes that burn wood than non-burners, as much as 500% higher. The characterization of a wood burning ban “punishing the little people” is easily undermined because a ban would actually benefit the burners themselves more than anyone else, especially their own children.
10. Considering the most dangerous part of particulate pollution, wood burning produces as much overall as all our cars during the winter.
11. We require emissions testing of all our cars. Great. An average house heated with wood emits about as much winter time pollution as driving 90 cars all winter, but we don’t emissions test wood stoves. Why not?
12. The inhalable particulate pollution from one woodstove is equivalent to the amount emitted from 3,000 gas furnaces producing the same amount of heat.
13. Emissions from modern combustion appliances for wood logs may increase ten-fold if they are not operated appropriately, and most of them are not.
14. Wood smoke is the only pollution emitted right where people spend most of their time. It disperses poorly, is not evenly distributed and stays in the air longer because of its small size. Concentrations can be 100 times higher for neighbors of wood burners than what is captured at the nearest monitoring station. Real local “pollution victims” are created even when overall community levels are low.
15. If your neighbor is a regular wood burner, and follows all the rules, i.e. doesn’t burn during yellow or red alert days, but does during all “green” days, you can go an entire winter without having one single day of clean air.
16. According to California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District, burning wood costs the rest of the community, primarily your next door neighbors, at least $2 in extra medical expenses for every lb of wood that you burn. An average fire then costs your neighbors about $40.
17. Long ago most communities passed ordinances protecting people from second hand cigarette smoke. Ironically those laws protect people at places they don’t necessarily have to be (restaurants, stores, buildings, etc). But in the one place they have to be, their home, they have no protection from smoke. People should have just as much protection from wood smoke as from cigarette smoke and for all the same reasons. We don’t allow people to blow cigarette smoke in your face, why should we allow people to blow wood smoke into your home?
18. Wood burning is not even close to carbon neutral over the short term, the next few decades, and it is that time frame that will make or break the climate crisis. Burning wood is extremely in inefficient. Per unit of heat created wood produces even more CO2 than the fossil fuels do.