The Wood Smoke Activist
April 2010 Newsletter
Educating the world about the health and climate impacts of
wood smoke and combustion aerosols.
Editor: Shirley Brandie
WWWOOOOOODDD SSSMMMOOOKKKEEE IIISSSSSSUUUEEESSS
Fighting Wood Smoke
Pollution from the
Grassroots to Government
Volume 2, Issue 4
Editor: Shirley Brandie
I hope that this newsletter will give you the information and inspiration
you need. Regain clean air to breathe and eliminate the wood burning that
is affecting your health and your home environment.
Please pass this issue on to others in need of help and suggest that they
send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list.
To be removed from the newsletter, please email to Shirley
**** A doctor’s letter verifying how wood smoke compromises
your health or public health in general would be beneficial in
showing that wood smoke truly is doing damage to you.****
Our mission is to educate public officials, government and all
citizens about wood smoke as a major form of hazardous air
pollution that affects our health, use of our property, water,
crops, livestock, the environment and climate change. We
urge citizens everywhere to press for legislative changes to
call wood smoke a public nuisance under state health codes
and to ban all wood burning.”
“Breathing wood smoke is smoking!”
City firm on ban of wood-burning stoves
Credit to: Peter Cox – Stillwater Gazette
Published: Thursday, March 4, 2010
The smoke in the air was too much for some neighbors, and Tuesday
night, the Stillwater City Council decided to put the fire out.
The council passed the first reading of a city ordinance that effectively
bans all wood-burning or boiling stoves – existing and future – in the
The stoves are used to heat homes, and have been shown to be a cheaper
than conventional heating systems.
But that cost also brings the smoke of a wood-burning fire.
When Jeff Shaleen installed one at his home on the 900 block of
Holcomb Street, his neighbors complained about it so much that several
city council members commented that no issue had ever attracted so
many calls and e-mails.
One neighbor, in an e-mail to the city council, said the smell is a big
"Why should my family and three-year-old twin boys have to put up
with smoke smell and haze all day every other day living in the city of
Stillwater," wrote Scott DeMars, who lives next door.
"Those people that breathe air have greater rights than those than can
install an outdoor wood-burning system with or with out a permit,"
Shaleen, who went through the proper legal channels to build the stove,
including getting building permits from city staff, was not happy.
"I went through a great deal to install the thing, it was very expensive to
put in," he said. "I just feel that it’s wrong to demand that I take this
boiler out at this point in time since I just put it in under a building
Shaleen says he spent about $8,000 on installing the new heating system.
But the issue is one of both nuisance and health, the council said.
City Planner Mike Pogge presented the issue to the council Tuesday,
pointing out that the stoves produce 12 times the amount of fine-
particulate matter that indoor wood stoves produce, and 1,800 times the
amount of particulate that comes from natural gas furnaces.
Councilman Jim Roush said that while Shaleen did go through the
proper channels, it wasn’t something the city had dealt with before.
"You did everything right," he said. "This was uncharted territory for
the city. Nobody really knew what the ramifications were."
The council approved the first reading 4-0, with Councilwoman Micky
The stove will not be grandfathered in.
The ordinance would go into effect when it is published, Pogge said.
In my opinion
Emails that I receive constantly tell me that when those having
problems with a neighbor.s wood smoke contact their municipalities,
the one constant is the answer „This is a civil issue..
Is it not the responsibility of our town officials to keep us free from
harm due to environmental hazards?
Since when do the rights of those that pollute the air in our homes and
properties trump the rights of those that need and deserve fresh air to
Burners are the minority and yet they are allowed to ruin the health of
If cigarette smoke has been proven to cause health hazards, why is wood
smoke that is even more chemically active in the body, for 40 times
longer than cigarette smoke, allowed to foul the air we all need to
Civil issues … I know personally that a „civil issue. has cost a couple
close to $100, 000.00 to obtain a court injunction. I ask you, is this
something a town should be proud of? Leaving an issue that could easily
be solved by creating or amending a bylaw to cover residential burning?
I am sick of hearing lame excuses by municipalities that turn a blind eye
to the harm done to their residents even when they are well-aware of
what is happening.
This is a Health issue which makes it a Moral issue.
It appears that some local politicians know nothing about morality –
that’s why they are who they are.
They think in terms of their elected position time period and hope to
skim by without causing waves. The thing is that, when they do not do
the right thing by their residents, word spreads quickly and their days
of so-called kingship are numbered.
Let.s all work to rid our towns of those that are fence-sitters!
Wood Smoke – a Health Hazard to be Aware of!
Posted in the Lethbridge Herald
Written by Cathy Baiton
Monday, 08 February 2010
The adverse effects of cigarette smoke are well-known, but another source of
second-hand smoke has become noticeable in parts of our city, as more
chimneys are releasing wood smoke into the air.
In Canada and elsewhere, a movement away from residential wood burning is
beginning to emerge, in light of ongoing research about its harmful effects.
Wood smoke actually contains many toxins similar to those found in cigarette
smoke, and components of both types of smoke are carcinogenic.
The extremely fine particles in wood smoke can penetrate deep into the lungs,
and remain active in the body up to 40 times longer than tobacco smoke. Even
short exposures can trigger or aggravate allergy, asthma or other health issues,
and research shows that children in wood-burning neighbourhoods have more
lung and breathing problems.
Because the particulate matter is so fine, up to 70 per cent of outdoor levels of
smoke can enter homes nearby, as U.S. studies have shown. Residential wood-
burning emissions are also a main cause of fine particle pollution in many cities
— in some areas, even more than emissions from industry or vehicles. More
information on the air quality and health effects of residential wood burning
can be found at the excellent Burning Issues website, at
A number of places, such as Montreal and Hampstead, Que., have brought in
public awareness efforts, regulations and bans to help local air quality and
protect residents from exposure to wood smoke. Wood burning can be an
option in the country where homes are widely spaced and the smoke can
dissipate, but it’s very different on residential streets where neighbours often
bear the brunt of smoke or fumes produced by chimneys or fire pits nearby.
We’re fortunate to live in a region where cleaner-burning fuels are available,
which the American Lung Association recommends using in place of wood
whenever possible. As the Lung Association of Quebec says in an article about
residential wood heating on its website: .It is time to care about the air that
we pollute because it is the air that we breathe..
As a parent, I also hope people will consider the potential costs for the
environment and health before burning wood in residential areas, to help the
air stay healthier for everyone, in all seasons.
Toxic emissions and devaluated CO2-neutrality
Rolf Czeskleba-Dupont of Denmark has written a research report
which was edited last November at a transnational publisher on "Toxic
emissions and devaluated CO2-neutrality. Expanded combustion of
stem wood violates sustainable development".
Reviewers may order it as an e-book from:
Possible readers are those, who are interested in climate politics without suppressing
local pollution themes as e.g. Chlorinated dioxins (PCDD/F) from the combustion of
wood. The Danish Ministry of the Environment has, unfortunately, made a junction
between these two issues in its 2006 report to the Stockholm Convention. In an
appendix, technicians recommended to restrict the use of wood stoves and other
small combustion appliances without flue gas cleansing. But they were stopped in
this initiative by a statement on climate politics favoring wood combustion as CO2-
neutral. However, according to earlier information, wood combustion (as all
biomass combustion) emits more CO2 pr. unit of energy released than all fossil
fuels. And, according to the most recent country statistics reported to international
conventions, 2/3 of all dioxin emissions from Danish sources stem from wood stoves
(also 70% of fine particle mass and 91% of PAH). Concerned citizens may be
inspired to further information gathering.
Environmental, energy and climate policies need fresh reflections. In order to
evaluate toxics reduction policies the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic
Pollutants is mandatory. Denmark’s function as lead country for dioxin research in
the context of the OSPAR Convention is contrasted with a climate policy whose
goals of CO2-reduction were made operational by green-wash. Arguments are given
for the devaluation of CO2- neutrality in case of burning wood. Alternative
practices as storing C in high quality wood products and/or leaving wood in the
forest are recommended.
A counter-productive effect of dioxin formation in the cooling phase of wood
burning appliances has been registered akin to de-novo-synthesis in municipal solid
waste incinerators. Researchers, regulators and the public are, however, still
preoccupied by notions of oven design and operation parameters, assuming that
dioxin behaves on line with other toxic pollutants from incomplete combustion.
Evidence is given that this is not the case.
Societal-historical problems of lacking consistency in dioxin research are contrasted
with more sustainable approaches.
This is obligatory reading for concerned citizens.
WOOD BURNING BIOMASS ENERGY
The biggest carbon Dioxide Emitter
Wood fueled biomass energy worse for carbon dioxide emissions than
fossil fuels. Massachusetts Forest Watch released a report today
(www.maforests.org/MFWCarb.pdf) stating that contrary to the belief
that wood fueled biomass burning would help lower carbon dioxide
emissions, it would instead dramatically increase them.
According to the group, wood fueled biomass burning is typically touted
as a carbon neutral fuel by biomass proponents, but the key assumption
about carbon neutrality is unsubstantiated and impossible when using
existing forests as fuel.
In the report, wood fueled biomass power plants are shown to be worse
than all fossil fuel power plants, including coal, for carbon dioxide
emissions per unit of energy produced. Calculations provided show
wood fueled biomass power plants emit about 50% more CO2 per
MWh than existing coal plants, 150% more than existing natural gas
plants and 330% more than new power plants.
Forest Watch spokesperson Chris Matera said, “It really is
crazy. Hundreds of millions of dollars in public so-called “green”
energy subsidies are being wasted on dirty wood biomass burning of
forests instead of going to genuinely clean energy sources such as solar,
geothermal, appropriate wind and hydro and importantly conservation
and efficiency. At a time when budgets are being slashed, we are
throwing away scarce taxpayer money on a caveman technology that
will worsen our problems, not help solve them.”
Last Wednesday, a hearing was held in Boston by the Joint Committee
on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on House Bill 4458 that
would create into law the citizen.s referendum that recently collected
over 78,000 certified signatures, which is enough to put the measure on
the ballot in November. The ballot measure would put a limit on
carbon dioxide emissions in order for renewable energy sources to be
eligible to receive taxpayer subsidies and other benefits and would
effectively ban taxpayer subsidies from being directed toward wood
fueled biomass plants since their carbon dioxide emissions are so high.
"We find that people are willing to support truly clean energy but do
not want to pay extra on their electricity bills and tax bills to build these
dirty biomass incinerators," said Jana Chicoine of the Concerned
Citizens of Russell, "Everyone knows that the proposed biomass
incinerators would add to air pollution and make carbon emissions
worse, yet the Patrick administration is still forcing us to pay for it. It’s
a tragic situation, but we have a chance to fix it in the legislature over
the next couple of weeks."
Meg Sheehan, chair of the Stop Spewing Carbon ballot question
committee commenting about the hearing added, “last week
the Massachusetts legislature received un-rebutted testimony from
medical professionals that particulate emissions from wood burning
biomass plants increase human mortality. A broad coalition of medical
and citizen groups are urging our elected officials to support House Bill
4458 to address this public health threat. Action is needed now," she
Massachusetts Forest Watch
Here is a site that I have joined and hope that you will too.
It.s a place where both pro-wood burners and anti-wood
burners can meet, talk and collaborate to try to find a solution
to the wood smoke issue. This is a great opportunity to be able
to hear both sides of the issue and input your own thoughts
I think you will find that it.s a place where you are free to tell
the burners why you feel the way you do and share your stories
of how wood smoke has changed your lives forever.
You may also find that all wood burners are not of the
mentality as those you are dealing with at present. And, most
importantly, they might be able to help all of you find solutions
to your problem. Simply ask them what they would do if they
were in your position and get their input. Perhaps uploading
your photos (remember to keep them small) will do much in
showing others what we have all been through so that they
understand why we feel as we do.
Regarding Kamloops Gasification
Credit to: CAM FORTEMS Daily News Staff Reporter
A B.C. Lung Association expert who analyzed information provided
by government and an industry proponent has determined that
gasification of railway ties poses little public risk in Kamloops.
Dr. Menn Biagtan, a medical doctor and program manager with the
association, said the group was contacted by people in Kamloops
concerned with a proposal to gasify creosote-treated railway ties at
Based on public reaction and materials involved, she requested and
reviewed information provided by the Ministry of Environment as
well as Interior Health.
.I am basing my opinion and review based on scientific information
and reviews by Ministry of Environment and others from the
scientific world,. she said.
.I do agree it won’t cause as much emissions as people fear..
The volume of emission from each one-megawatt generator, she
said, is on par with that produced by a diesel truck.
.Based on the scientific report and the calculations we gave, I can’t
Without naming Domtar Corp.’s pulp mill, Biagtan said .there are
point sources in Kamloops people should be more worried about..
She also said the operation of wood stoves is a greater threat to
human health than the proposed cogeneration plant.
While two government agencies and now the independent lung
association have said the proposal is safe as long as it operates
within strict limits set and monitored by Ministry of Environment,
opposition to the gasifier continues to grow.
An appeal was filed to the permit this week that includes an
endorsement from the president of Royal Inland Hospital’s medical
staff. Both MLAs and MP Cathy McLeod have questioned aspects of
the proposal and demanded more scrutiny.
While Biagtan has no concerns about the plant endangering human
health, she acknowledged her review is based on information
provided to her by government and scientists at University of North
Dakota contracted by Aboriginal Cogeneration Corp.
Biagtan said the number of calls to her agency alone indicates there
is a need for better communication with the public. Kamloops’ MLAs
Terry Lake and Kevin Krueger are both trying to stop provincial
funding based on the company’s lack of public consultation.
Company president Kim Sigurdson has yet to make a public
appearance in Kamloops.
.I wanted to make sure people really understood it and had the
right information,. she said. .People shouldn’t be complacent if
they want to be protected..
That’s Hot: Green Fire Logs
Credit to: Melissa Breyer posted to: http://www.care2.com
Common green sense generally dictates selecting the natural and
simple option over the artificial and processed. This thought brings
me to the fireplace, more specifically, the fire log. There’s the
characterless cylinder you can buy at the supermarket versus a
beautiful, organic hunk of tree. I hate to be a wet blanket here, but
alas—artificial logs beat the pulp out of real ones in terms of
This comes as a bit of surprise, I admit. Driving to the store, buying
the packaged, factory-produced, fake log made of god-knows-what,
and plopping the anemic little tube in the fireplace—it just seems
wrong. Most items manufactured for convenience tend to be
relatively lacking in their wholesome attributes; but things are
different with the fire log.
Where There’s Smoke
The problem with wood isn’t really the wood, but the smoke. Wood
smoke has a wide range of ill-health effects. Smoke is made up of a
complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood
and other organic matter burn. The biggest health threat from
smoke comes from particulate matter. Particulate matter can cause
burning eyes, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.
Particulate matter can also aggravate chronic heart and lung
diseases—and are linked to premature deaths in people with these
chronic conditions. When released outdoors, wood smoke becomes
air pollution. In some parts of the United States during a typical
wood-heating season, wood smoke can account for up to 80 percent
of the air pollution in a residential area.
Real Versus Fake
In 2006, the United States Environmental Protection Agency
published a study that compared emissions from real logs and five
brand name artificial logs (Northland and Pine Mountain from
Conros, Easy Time and Xtra-Time Firelog from Duraflame, and Java–
Log from Robustion Technologies). The study shows that the carbon
monoxide emission rate of artificial logs is around 75 percent less
than real wood, and that the artificial logs create 80 percent less
particulate matter than their cousins from the forest. Chemical
emission were dramatically less as well. Artificial logs will also
warm your home more efficiently: Their heat content is 12,620 to
15,190 BTUs per pound compared to oak, which is about 8,300 BTUs
Fake Logs go Green
So, I am still choking on my marshmallows here, but those are some
pretty convincing numbers. Although there are other green logs on
the market, the tides really turned when Duraflame, the largest
manufacturer of fire logs, went green. Duraflame switched from
using petroleum-based waxes as a binder, to vegetable paraffin.
The vegetable paraffin is used to bind wood sawdust and recycled
biomass (like nutshells and unprocessed fibers from food
production) so that waste is being put to use rather than out to
pasture. The resultant tube is a highly efficient burning log with a
much cleaner burn. In terms of duration, a 6-pound Duraflame lasts
3 1/2 hours, which a company representative says is the equivalent
of burning 30 pounds of firewood. Since so much less smoke is
produced, artificial logs are being recommended over wood logs by
many clean air agencies.
Up in Smoke
Credit to— http://alethonews.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/up-in-smoke/
Why Biomass Wood Energy is Not the Answer By George Wuerthner
January 12, 2010
After the Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.’s linerboard plant in Missoula
Montana announced that it was closing permanently, there have been many
people including Montana Governor Switzer, Missoula mayor and Senator
Jon Tester, among others who advocate turning the mill into a biomass
energy plant. Northwestern Energy, a company which has expressed
interest in using the plant for energy production has already indicated
that it would expect more wood from national forests to make the plant
The Smurfit Stone conversion to biomass is not alone. There have been a
spate of new proposals for new wood burning biomass energy plants
sprouting across the country like mushrooms after a rain. Currently
there are plans and/or proposals for new biomass power plants in Maine,
Vermont, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Idaho, Oregon and elsewhere.
In every instance, these plants are being promoted as .green. technology.
Part of the reason for this .boom. is that taxpayers are providing
substantial financial incentives, including tax breaks, government
grants, and loan guarantees. The rationale for these taxpayer subsidies
is the presumption that biomass is .green. energy. But like other .quick
fixes. there has been very little serious scrutiny of real costs and
environmental impacts of biomass. Whether commercial biomass is a viable
alternative to traditional fossil fuels can be questioned.
Before I get into this discussion, I want to state right up front, that
coal and other fossil fuels that now provide much of our electrical
energy need to be reduced and effectively replaced. But biomass energy
is not the way to accomplish this end goal.
BIOMASS BURNING IS POLLUTION
First and foremost, biomass burning isn’t green. Burning wood produces
huge amounts of pollution. Especially in valleys like Missoula where
temperature inversions are common, pollution from a biomass burner will
be the source of numerous health ailments. Because of the air pollution
and human health concerns, the Oregon Chapter of the American Lung
Association, the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Florida Medical
Association, have all established policies opposing large-scale biomass
The reason for this medical concern is that even with the best pollution
control devises, biomass energy is extremely dirty. For instance, one of
the biggest biomass burners now in operation, the McNeil biomass plant
in Burlington, Vermont is the number one pollution source in the state,
emitting 79 classified pollutants. Biomass releases dioxins, and as much
particulates as coal burning, plus carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide,
sulfur dioxide, and contributes to ozone formation.
BIOMASS ENERGY IS INEFFICIENT
Wood is not nearly as concentrated a heat source as coal, gas, oil, or
any other fossil fuel. Most biomass energy operations are only able to
capture 20-25% of the latent energy by burning wood. That means one
needs to gather and burn more wood to get the same energy value as a
more concentrated fuel like coal. That is not to suggest that coal is a
good alternative, rather wood is a worse alternative. Especially when
you consider the energy used to gather the rather dispersed source of
wood and the energy costs of trucking it to a central energy plant. If
the entire carbon footprint of wood is considered, biomass creates far
more CO2 with far less energy output than other energy sources.
The McNeil Biomass Plant in Burlington Vermont seldom runs full time
because wood, even with all the subsidies (and Vermonters made huge and
repeated subsidies to the plant—not counting the .hidden subsidies. like
air pollution) wood energy can’t compete with other energy sources, even
in the Northeast where energy costs are among the highest in the nation.
Even though the plant was also retrofitted so it could burn natural gas
to increase its competitiveness with other energy sources, the plant
still does not operate competitively. It generally is only used to off-
set peak energy loads.
One could argue, of course, that other energy sources like coal are
greatly subsidized as well, especially if all environmental costs were
considered. But at the very least, all energy sources must be
.standardized. so that consumers can make informed decisions about
energy—and biomass energy appears to be no more green than other energy
BIOMASS SANITIZES AND MINES OUR FORESTS