Showing posts from 2020

Outdoor Wood Boilers (OWB) Are More Than A Nuisance

From time-to-time, the Gabriola Island Clean Air Society receives emails from across Canada from people who are desperate for help. Their local and provincial governments have failed them. Recently, an individual from Cold Lake, Alberta, reached out to us. He and his family live in a residential neighbourhood where people commonly use wood stoves, burn bon fires, and even use outdoor wood boilers (OWB) for heating. Here's a photo of his neighbour's OWB in operation. Properties in this community are on one acre lots - so this is close to his house. According to the individual who connected with us: "The volume of smoke from this OWB, is dozens of times greater than a traditional in-home wood stove. And, the OWB never shuts off. When it is not in active ‘plume mode,’ it smoulders and produces a constant stream of acrid, creosote-smelling smoke, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has wood delivered at the start of each winter, by a logging

PurpleAir sensor readings are virtually indistinguishable from government monitors according to new peer reviewed study

In August of 2016, the Gabriola Island Clear Air Society brought online the first PurpleAir sensor network in Canada. Our sensor network has documented extensively the staggering amount of air pollution coming from wood stoves and fireplaces on our tiny island. As the number of PurpleAir sensors expanded across the province and elsewhere in Canada, many began to raise questions about the accuracy of these low-cost devices. There have been several studies to-date that all show the same thing: these devices work, are accurate, reliable, and fill in gaps in air quality monitoring. The newest study from Australia by Dr. Dorothy Robinson provides definitive evidence that should quash any concerns about using PurpleAir sensors. See the study here .  Gabriola Island Clean Air Society director Dr. Michael Mehta has the following to say about this study. This paper provides empirical evidence to show that the use of low-cost PM2.5 monitors for measuring air quality on a distributed basis has me

The not so hidden consequences of burning wood

As we see neighbour after neighbour receive deliveries of wood for next winter, and some down on the beach with chainsaws cutting logs washed ashore, this image really hits hard.

The PurpleAir network on Gabriola Island detects the beginning of wildfire season

Last night a state of emergency was declared in the Squamish area due to a new wildfire in the region.  By late Wednesday night it had reached 60 Ha in size. See the following article in the The Squamish Chief. The smoke from this fire was detected by one of our PurpleAir sensors at 3:39AM (some four hours later) on Gabriola Island (approximately 80km away as the crow flies). All of our sensors on the island detected this smoke soon after. The levels of smoke are in the 30-40 micrograms/m3 range currently (as of 9:16AM) on Gabriola Island. Although still lower than what people are often exposed to due to wood stoves and fireplaces on the island, PM2.5 at even these concentrations can be challenging for those with breathing difficulties, and those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 may experience a worsening of symptoms. Here's another graph that shows you how to tell the difference between wood stove smoke and wildfire smoke based on these sensors. Because of how wo

Using the average is dangerous and irresponsible when it comes to air pollution exposures from wood stoves

When it comes to air pollution, there seems to be special "rules" for how it is measured that doesn't reflect true risk or scientific evidence. Averaging exposures over longer periods of time ignores hundreds of scientific and medical studies on the significant and often irreversible impacts associated with short-term, acute exposures to high levels of air pollution. Yet, regulators and others usually ignore these effects and exposures. This approach involves using 24-hour and annual averaging which works somewhat when you believe that the airshed is a uniform and homogenous thing. This model is designed for urban areas where industrial pollution is more common, but in rural communities this approach understates the risks from wood burning for home heating and other purposes. Wood burning creates hyperlocal air pollution and the nature of this combustion process leads to rapid increases in PM2.5 pollution. PM2.5 sized particles are the most dangerous air pollutant,

The use of wood stoves and fireplaces should be banned

Gabriola Island Clean Air Society director, Dr. Michael Mehta, discussed on Global News BC yesterday the need for a provincial ban on wood stoves and fireplaces to reduce the risks associated with COVID-19. Mehta thinks the current fire bans are a good first step, but believes officials should go even further to control smoke by banning the use of fire places and wood stoves. Mehta acknowledges such a move could be politically unpopular but said it would help protect the older populations living in the rural communities. To read the article click here .

Dramatic reductions in air pollution are needed to keep us healthy

Dr. Michael Brauer from UBC wrote the following piece in the Globe and Mail about air pollution and COVID-19. Certainly, there has been reduced vehicular traffic and economic activity due to physical distancing. But that doesn’t mean all drivers of pollution have been eliminated. In British Columbia, other major sources include open burning of agricultural and forestry waste, as well as residential wood heating and road dust. The wildfire season is also quickly approaching, bringing with it the potential for severe smoke. And in the past week alone, elevated levels of health-damaging particle air pollution have been measured on Vancouver Island and in Metro Vancouver with authorities poised to issue air-quality advisories. In our interior communities, spring has already brought about multiple air-quality advisories, prompted by the dust that’s unleashed when the snow melts and winter traction materials dry up. Dr. Brauer goes onto note that roughly 800,000 people in B.C. live with

Wood burning is a cultural malady and a "pandemic" in slow motion

The hyper-local nature of wood smoke pollution may make small communities like Gabriola Island BC hotspots for COVID-19. With COVID-19 spreading rapidly around the world, and awareness of how air pollution may increase the risk of contracting the virus and exacerbate lung conditions for those with the infection , it's clear that wood burning on Gabriola Island and nearby is a cultural malady. Nothing here has changed. Although there is now a ban on outdoor burning, wood stove use is rampant and it is perhaps worse given how many people are working from home, off school, etc. According to  Daniel Bings , with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function. In other words, poor air quality may increase the number of COVID-19 cases and make these cases more severe. In large cities like LA where air pollution is also a major

With wildfire season just around the corner, does it make sense to have fuel on your property?

There are so many contradictions and blindspots associated with burning wood for residential home heating. People stack large amounts of presumably dry and seasoned wood on their property, and often right beside their homes. If a wildfire started in a place like Gabriola Island, this could be the perfect storm for disaster. Here's an interesting example of a firewood seller who delivers to the island. He'll remove brush and debris while dropping off more fuel (wood).

Risk from air pollution exposure and justice: Citizen science monitoring provides the tools needed to better understand these issues

Take a look at the following. It shows how "Air pollution can vary by as much as eight times within the span of a single city block. The air quality data produced by the nearest monitoring station didn’t reflect what Historic West End residents [Charlotte, North Carolina] were actually breathing." See the story here .