2010 Feb. 2: CT: Connecticut must Ban Outdoor Wood Furnaces if People’s Health is to be Protected, By Nancy Alderman, EHHI
Environment and Human Health, Inc. joins Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and the American Lung Association in asking the Connecticut Legislature to ban outdoor wood furnaces throughout the state
If the state does not ban outdoor wood-burning furnaces (OWFs), also known as outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) — will the local health departments be able to afford to enforce the wood smoke nuisance code in every complaint case that arises from these outdoor wood burning sheds. Will this not bankrupt the towns and the state? How will ocal health departments be able to handle all the complaints?
These devises are essentially small-insulated sheds with a short smoke stack. They burn wood that heats water that is then sent through underground pipes to heat a home or a building. These appliances emit smoke 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outdoor wood furnaces are not to be confused with indoor wood stoves which are tested and certified by EPA — outdoor wood furnaces are not.
Most outdoor wood furnaces employ very primitive combustion technology and because of this they emit dense smoke that endangers the health of families and neighbors. The particles of wood smoke are so small that closed doors and windows cannot stop it from entering homes, even newer energy-efficient weather-tight homes.
The use of outdoor wood furnaces has increased over the past few years causing there to now be many complaints about their smoke making people sick.
Many experts who know about outdoor wood furnaces/boilers — know they are designed in a way that makes the burning incomplete and the wood smoke emissions huge and polluting.
The present set-back regulations of 200 feet which Connecticut now has in no way protects anyone. Five hundred feet would not protect either. Should we have a set-back regualtion of 2,000 feet?
The Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection’s website has a fact sheet where the question is asked, “Are OWFs harmful to the environment and human health?” The fact sheet says, “Yes, OWFs produce a lot of thick smoke, which in addition to being a nuisance to neighbors, has serious health and air pollution impacts.”
According to the fact sheet:
Smoke from OWFs contains unhealthy amounts of particulate matter, dioxin, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and other toxic air pollutants. Exposure to smoke from an OWF can increase adverse respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms. Exposure to other pollutants listed above is associated with a diverse range of harmful health effects, including asthmatic sensitivity, lung illnesses and cancer.
Due to the harmful impacts of these appliances, the State of Washington has banned them in their entire State. Eight towns in Connecticut — Granby, Tolland, Hebron, Woodbridge, South Windsor, Portland, Ridgefield and Haddam — also have banned them.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has called on Connecticut’s General Assembly to ban them in Connecticut in their next session because of their toxic smoke that is sickening neighbors and polluting whole neighborhoods.
The American Lung Association, New England, has also urged the Connecticut legislature to impose a statewide ban on these wood-burning outdoor furnaces.
Because they are a closed shed system, one cannot see what is being burned inside of them. Although they are designed to burn wood, owners can add yard waste, packing materials, construction debris and even household garbage and tires without anyone knowing it. Burning these other substances is illegal, however there is no way to see or know what is being burned. If these other substances are burned, it will increase the toxic and hazardous air pollutants that come out of the stack.
Different states have tried to protect people from these wood-burning appliances by passing regulations. However, none of these regulations have proven to be effective enough to protect people’s health. For instance, Connecticut has a setback regulation of 200 feet from neighbor’s property and they have a smoke stack regulation that requires the stack to be higher than the roof peak of the nearest house within 500 feet.
However, even with these regulations, hundreds of complaints have been received by the CT DEP from people being made sick by these furnaces.
Because of their basic design, it is possible that they will never be able to be made safe. Their smoke emissions problems are complicated by the fact the appliances cycle between oxygen deficient and oxygen rich burning. The smoke that leaves the top of the stack, irrespective of height of the stack, lacks the heat energy necessary for it to rise or to diffuse and be diluted by ambient air and thus causes the smoke to fall to the ground engulfing the near-by homes. It is also why the smoke drifts for many thousands of yards, without dissipating, polluting whole neighborhoods.
Breathing air containing wood smoke on a continuous basis has many harmful effects. It can reduce lung function, increase asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis. It can aggravate heart disease, irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses as well as trigger headaches and allergies.
Environment and Human Health, Inc. joins Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and the American Lung Association in asking the Connecticut Legislature to ban outdoor wood furnaces throughout the state.
The CT DEP operates an Air Pollution Complaint Line at (860) 424-3436. This line is open to all citizens with concerns regarding smoke and other air pollution. So far they have received hundreds of complaints from people who are sick from breathing in the smoke from these furnaces.
Nancy Alderman, is president of Environment and Human Health, Inc., 1191 Ridge Rd., North Haven, CT 06473. See also http://ehhijournal.org.
See some other coverage, along with a video from a reader of smoke encroaching on her property, here. There is more here, and here, and here.