The arrival of cooler weather announces the beginning of wood stove heating in our community. With access to a plentiful supply of wood and wood byproducts, it’s no surprise that a large percentage of Princeton and area residents use wood and pellet stoves to heat their homes.
Princeton, like so many communities in the interior, is located in a narrow valley. This geographic location, combined with frequent temperature inversions, results in several days during the winter months where wood smoke and other air pollutants are trapped and accumulate into levels that are hazardous to our health.
According to the BC Air Quality website, “wood smoke is much like cigarette smoke, containing a mixture of tiny particles (called particulate matter, or PM) and gases. The smaller particulate matter, PM2.5 can be breathed into the deepest reaches of our lungs.
They are associated with serious (sometimes fatal) breathing and heart disorders. Particulate matter also tends to pick up other hazardous pollutants, giving them a free ride into the lungs.”
The BC Ministry of Environment has set clear air quality standards aimed at reducing air pollution and improving the health of the province’s citizens. They are working with industry to turn more wood waste into energy and encouraging companies to use the cleanest available technologies. In addition, they provide information to BC residents aimed at improve air quality.
Here are some things that we can all do to improve the air we breathe:
• Instead of burning your garden leftovers, use the leaves, clippings and branches to make compost or wood chips (mulch). Or you can take your garden materials to the landfill site where they will recycle it, free of charge.
• Don’t burn your garbage or building materials (e.g. plastics, tires, garbage, painted wood, paper and cardboard). These can release very toxic substances when they are burned. Reduce your waste by avoiding over-packaging. And recycle everything you can.
• When you burn wood to heat your home, make sure the combustion is efficient, releasing the least possible amount of smoke:
• Wet or green wood produces a lot of smoke. Wood should be properly seasoned in a dry place for at least six months.
• Do not burn wood that is treated, painted, or laden with salt from exposure to sea water.
• Use an efficient, certified wood stove that’s just the right size for your home. Install and operate it correctly. Overloading your stove or starving the fire of air are both harmful.
• Think of your neighbors’ health, not to mention your own — avoid burning when the smoke won’t dissipate from the area, such as on cold, clear and calm nights.
• Be aware of the “no-burn” periods in your community, and don’t bend the rules! (BC Ministry of Environment: BC Air Quality)
For more information on ways to improve our community’s air quality, visit the BC Air
Quality website at www.bcairquality.ca/plans/index.html