Like many, I am susceptible to smoke and I dread this time of year when so many feel the need to light up wood-burning fireplaces and do so with little or no concern about the impact they have on their neighbours and local air quality.
While there are certainly guidelines and technologies available to significantly reduce the amount of the smoke associated with burning wood, there is no requirement to implement either and we have to deal with that throughout the fall and winter seasons.
Combustion is a complex process and in the case of wood, the off gases and makeup of the particulate matter are a real health concern. Anyone familiar with combustion processes will tell you that the presence of smoke is an indication of either too much air or too much fuel – in simple terms, it is incomplete combustion and in itself, a waste of energy – health concerns not withstanding. The off gases and particulates in wood smoke comprise a large number of environmental “nasties” including known carcinogens.
While many will no doubt reference “grandfather clauses”, the time is long overdue to put an end to the conventional wood-burning fireplace in urban environments. There are wood-burning heating systems which significantly reduce pollutants and natural gas, for example, virtually eliminating any concerns about smoke and off gases other than water and carbon dioxide, both of which are also present in wood smoke.
We will all be better off when the day comes that the conventional wood-burning fireplace or stove is banned – completely.
James P. Crowley