Wood burning a toxic air pollutant

Posted at 9:30 PM, Jan 04, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY - Finding ways to combat bad air are a hot topic across the Salt Lake Valley, and experts warn of one source from inside the home.

Residents are making effort to carpool and politicians are pushing for stricter regulations, but something they are doing inside could be causing more damage.

"Wood burning is a bigger issue than any of us have known, here in Utah specifically," said Erin Mendenhall, Breathe Utah. "Wood burning is accounting for as much direct PM2.5 as our cars and trucks are."

According to Mendenhall, Environmental Protection Agency numbers show that burning a wood fireplace for one hour emits 3,000 to 90,000 times more pollution than burning a natural gas furnace for that same amount of time.

"We think of it as this nice snowy night lets put a fire on for the ambiance of it. We need to start thinking twice about that kind of decision we make, it is a huge impact on our air shed,"  Mendenhall said.

Dr. Brian Moench with the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment says that wood smoke and industrial admissions are the most toxic types of air pollution, which can have an impact on our health.

"People should understand that when they are burning wood in their own home, they are not only creating a toxic environment for their own family, but because those particles are exceedingly small, they seep seamlessly into neighbors' homes and affect the health of your neighbors as well," Moench said.

The Clean Air, No Excuses public rally is being held on January 25 at the Utah State Capitol calling on legislators to act on air pollution issues. The state legislative session begins the next week.