Campaign to improve Bay Area winter air quality
By Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News Service
November 18, 2006
As winter approaches and temperatures cool down, Bay Area residents
are being asked to postpone lighting fireplaces and woodstoves
in an effort to keep air quality at healthy levels.
According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, wintertime
air pollution peaks at night and in the early morning hours.
Cooler ground temperatures can result in warmer air trapping
another layer of air at ground level. When wind or rain doesn't
dissipate this inversion layer, pollution can build up and reach
Marking the winter air pollution season, this year's Spare the
Air Tonight campaign begins Monday and as with its summer counterpart,
advisories will be issued when unhealthy levels of air pollution
are predicted, BAAQMD announced today.
Additionally, on Dec 18, new federal regulations will impose
stricter air quality standards, cutting in half the permissible
level of particulates allowed in the air over a 24-hour period,
according to the lung association.
The two biggest sources of fine particulate matter air pollution
are wood-burning fires, particularly those in older wood-burning
stoves, and motor vehicles, according to air quality authorities.
Wood smoke includes many of the same toxins as are found in cigarette
smoke, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, benzene and
formaldehyde, according to the American Lung Association of California.
"During winter, we get many calls from people who are severely
affected by wood smoke in the air. Some of them literally can't
breathe when they go outside. They feel they are prisoners in
their home," lung association spokeswoman Jenny Bard said
in a statement.
"We know that some people by necessity must burn wood to
heat their homes," she said. "Our goal is to raise awareness
of the dangers of wood smoke and let people know what they can
do to reduce wood smoke pollution."
The lung association suggests burning manufactured logs without
wax bindings and made from compressed sawdust, which burn about
50 percent cleaner than wood.
Softwoods such as pine and fire are the best options for starting
fires, and hardwood logs should be added later. And garbage and
glossy papers are a fireplace no-no, as they can release toxic
chemicals into the air.
On Spare the Air Tonight evenings, Bay Area residents will be
asked to refrain from burning wood and to drive less and will
be advised to avoid strenuous physical activity.
Spare the Air Tonight ends on Feb. 16 and does not have a free
public transit component.
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