Friday, 7 April 2017

Press release - Wood Smoke is a Serious Health Hazard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Wood Smoke is a Serious Health Hazard

(April 6, 2017, Vancouver, British Columbia)— Vicki Morell feels like a prisoner in her own home. And she warns that if it happened to her and her family, it can happen to you too. 

The misery began 12 years ago when wood smoke from a neighbour’s fireplace began to permeate the Morell family’s home. The smoke gives Morell headaches and causes burning eyes and other health effects. “My wood-burning neighbours have told me that it is their right to burn wood,” said Morell. "But what about my right to breathe fresh clean air in my own home? I don’t understand why the right to burn wood outweighs another’s right to breathe clean air.”

Morell used to think that closing windows would keep out the wood smoke, but she soon discovered that she was wrong. Wood smoke particles are far smaller than the width of a human hair — so tiny that, research has shown, the insides of nearby houses can wind up having nearly 80% of the outside level of wood smoke. If someone living near you burns wood, it is virtually impossible to keep their wood smoke out of your home. 

Morell’s experience led her to establish the Canadian Clean Air Alliance in 2007, which has brought together people across Canada who are also plagued by wood smoke pollution in their neighbourhoods. 

And now this past year Morell and a group of concerned Canadians have joined up with a new science-based international coalition, Doctors and Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution (DSAWSP). 

One of DSAWSP's founding board members is Dr. Michael Mehta, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Thompson Rivers University. According to Mehta, many people are still not aware that wood burning is a significant health and environmental hazard. He says that DSAWSP was formed to bring the medical and scientific research on wood burning to the general public and to advocate for legal and regulatory protections for neighbours of wood-burning households and businesses.

Modern society has made great strides in eliminating the health hazards of secondhand cigarette smoke, but little has been done to protect people from secondhand wood smoke, even though research suggests that wood smoke may be even more hazardous to human health. Change-out programs of old wood stoves for new ones provide little health protection for the money invested, and may even be counterproductive. Certified wood stoves in actual in-home usage have been shown in multiple studies to be far more polluting than their certification levels suggest, and to release even higher levels of some toxins than older wood stoves. 

According to DSAWSP’s board chair, Utah-based physician Dr. Brian Moench, “Burning ten pounds of wood releases as many toxic chemicals as 6,000 packs of cigarettes. For far too long, wood burning has been given an undeserved free ride by many government agencies. It’s time for the global community to embrace the urgency to eliminate wood burning wherever possible.” For more information on Doctors and Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution and on the health and environmental hazards of wood burning, see DSAWSP’s website at woodsmokepollution.org.  

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Michael D. Mehta, Ph.D, mmehta@tru.ca 250-852-7275  
Brian Moench, MD drmoench@yahoo.com 801-243-9089
Vicki Morell vmorell@telus.net


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