In 2013 the World Health Organization classified particulate matter as a Group 1 carcinogen. In “Outdoor air pollution a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths” their evaluation showed:
An increasing risk of lung cancer with increasing levels of exposure to particulate matter and air pollution.
Now they’re back with a new, comprehensive report that goes straight to the problem sources, “Residential Heating With Wood and Coal, Health Impacts and Policy Options“. Simply put,
Evidence links emissions from wood and coal heating to serious health effects such as respiratory and cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.
Air pollution resulting from wood burning is a problem worldwide, locally, too:
Burning solid fuel in homes produces more neighbourhood-level PM pollution than using electricity, gas or liquid fuels for heating. Wood space heating was responsible for 11% of California’s annual average PM2.5 and 22% of the state’s winter PM2.5 emissions in 2012 (Air Resources Board, 2014).
The opportunity is straightforward — residential and recreational wood burning,
is a sector in which PM2.5 and BC (black carbon) emissions can potentially be reduced with greater cost–effectiveness than many other emission reduction options.
Wood burning continues to be ‘low-hanging fruit’ for air quality regulators. Part of the problem is that the public considers it a “green” or renewable fuel source, so public outreach and education must be scaled up.
In Chapter 6, it’s the policy options that intrigue, including “No Burn Days”, both voluntary and mandatory, are “usually called when weather conditions are cold and still.”
“No burn” areas are needed… it is important to define urban areas with dense populations and/or geographical features (such as valleys between mountains) where residential heating or cooking with small-scale appliances burning solid fuels (wood and coal) is not permitted at all
Recreational wood burning along Southern California’s beaches qualifies. Dense urban areas define the region and specific locations in Newport Beach allow burning too close to resident homes. Consider the geographical features at Big Corona beach in Corona del Mar, where 100 foot high bluffs surrounding the beach trap particulate matter from the 25 beach bonfires — a candidate for a No Burn Area? Especially in winter when inversions bring adverse exposure levels for nearby residents.