Policies Elsewhere

What makes a successful woodsmoke-reduction program - peer-reviewed research paper published in Air Quality and Climate Change, August/November 2016.

Launceston's woodsmoke program reduced deaths in winter from respiratory disease by 28% and cardiovascular disease by 20%. Year round, for men, the reductions were 23% (respiratory), 18% (cardiovascular) and 11.4% (all deaths).
   Lead researcher, Dr Fay Johnston & colleagues published the results in
the British Medical Journal.  
The slide below, from Dr Johnson's 2016 talk to the international woodsmoke researchers network, summarizes the latest research showing that the only effective way to reduce woodsmoke is to replace wood heaters with non-polluting heating.  Stricter emissions standards, education on correct operation of wood heaters and catalysts have all been shown to be ineffective.

 Montreal banned new wood heaters from 28 April 2009
Woodheating accounts for 47% of Montreal’s PM2.5 pollution, including 45 winter days from Nov 2008 to March 2009 with PM2.5 levels exceeding the standard.  PM2.5 cause an estimated 6,028 cases of infantile bronchitis, 40,449 days of asthma symptoms and 1,540 premature deaths every year in Montreal.  

Montreal has freezing cold winters.  Daily minimum temperatures average -13C in January; daily maxima average -5C.  Despite the cold climate, installation of all new wood stoves was banned from 28 April 2009, to protect people’s health.  Community support was gained when people learned that using a wood stove for 9 hours created more pollution than using a mid-size car for an entire year.

The results appear to have paid off -  the number of smoggy days in winter (where PM2.5 concentrations exceed 35 μg/m3 for more than 3 hours over 75% of Montréal) fell from 29 in 2009 to 10 in 2013

In October 2013, the decision was taken to phase out all log-burning wood heaters by 2020.

These effective policies can be contrasted with policies that focus on correct operation of wood heaters.   In a submission to the Federal Government in 2013 on wood-heater regulation, Armidale Dumaresq council stated: “It is estimated that Council has committed more than $300,000 (excluding wages) in the past 10 years on wood smoke abatement measures”.  Despite this, recent data (2012-14) show PM2.5 from May to August averaged 14.9 mg/m3 at the CBD, compared to 13.9 mg/m3 for June to August 1999.

Motreal earmarks $6 million to end wood burning.  Studies have shown that neighbourhoods where woodburning is common have increased hospital admissions for asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, and that this type of air pollution causes premature death.  Montreal outlawed new installations of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces two years ago. At the time, critics said this would only stop an already intolerable problem from getting worse.  Alan De Sousa, the city's executive committee member responsible for environmental issues, said "Our first step was to cap the growth in wood-burning appliances, and this new funding from the province will allow us to introduce a rebate program to start to make a dent in the number of wood stoves and fireplaces already installed." 

   Sidney Ribaux of  Equiterre said the goal is the removal or replacement of as many of these appliances as possible."If you consider that using a wood-burning stove for nine hours generates the same quantity of fine particles as a car does in one year, you can understand that this program will make a major improvement in Montreal's air quality."

  A letter from the Directeur - Environnement in 2014 explained why the only option to protect public heath was to phase out log-burning heaters: For many years now, Montreal has conducted public awareness campaigns on wood-burning best practices. Unfortunately, no air quality improvement had been observed.  In contrast, since the installation of new log-burning heaters was banned in 2009, the number of smoggy days in winter (where PM2.5 concentrations exceed 35 μg/m3 for more than 3 hours over 75% of Montréal) fell from 29 in 2009 to 10 in 2013.

Pellet heaters, like the one pictured here, are still permitted. See also http://www.equiterre.org/en/communique/woodstove-and-fireplace-changeout-program-for-the-island-of-montreal-%E2%80%93-official-launch-of

Christchurch & Otago, NZ - no woodburners in new houses.  After health studies showed that the areas with the highest levels of woodsmoke had 68% more respiratory deaths, 22% more circulatory deaths and 16% more total deaths, Christchurch banned use of all models over 15 year old. In Otago, those rated more than 1.5 g/kg to be removed by 1 Jan 2012; new heaters installed as replacements for more polluting models must be rated less than 0.7 g/kg.
"We take air quality very seriously and consulted very widely on this significant change.  This is all about rights and responsibilities.  The right to keep warm, the right to clean air and the responsibility to make sure that you aren't polluting your neighbours".  In Christchurch, woodheaters are not permitted in new houses (which can be designed and insulated to a much higher so have much lower heating requirements than older houses).

Launceston - 75% reduction in woodheater use.  After community consultation, Strategic Plan aims to "Evaluate the introduction of a by-law that prevents the installation of wood heaters in homesby 2011
Launceston, Tas, also suffers from woodsmoke pollution.  In the 1990s an initial “Breathe the Benefits” campaign encouraging people to operate heaters correctly failed to produce an improvement. 
Subsequent community education programs explained the health problems caused by woodsmoke.  Nearly three quarters of families with woodheating switched to non-polluting alternatives, as recommended by the ALF. 
The AMA called for a ban on woodheaters - air pollution measurements reduced dramatically.  After a community survey, Launceston’s Strategic Plan 2008-2013 was formulated.  It seeks further funding for the woodheater buyback program, and to “Evaluate the introduction of a by-law that prevents the installation of wood heaters in homes” by 2011 (See Strategy 1.1 of Priority 1)

Advert for the Puget Sound Wood Stove Replacement Program (Jan 2015).

As well as burn bans on high pollution days, Tacoma-Pierce County advises that "it's always illegal to smoke out your neighbor." Report Violators - online or by phone.

SF Bay Area Winter Spare the Air 30-second video - essential viewing!

SF Bay Area 'Spare the Air'

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment - 30-sec video - also essential viewing!

For your own health stop burning wood

Sydney and Canberra
Several Sydney councils do not permit the installation of solid fuel heaters e.g. Waverley and Holroyd, with others requiring non-polluting heating in new developments, e.g. Manooka Valley, Oran Park and Turner Road Growth Precincts. In Canbera, woodheaters are not permitted in the new residential suburbs of the Molonglo Valley because of air quality concerns.

YouTube video alerting people to the fact that wood smoke and cigarette smoke contain similar mixtures of toxic chemicals. Many US cities have ‘Spare the Air’ or 'red alert' days when use of woodheaters would lead to exceedances of the air quality standards.  On these days, woodheating is not permitted.

Palo Alto banned wood-burning fireplaces (only gas fireplaces are allowed) in new buildings in 2000 to reduce dioxin emissions.  One of their leaflets explains: "Woodsmoke is also an important source of dioxins and other toxic compounds. Wood-smoke contributes 39 percent of dioxin air emissions in the Bay Area ... In the Bay Area, woodsmoke can become a water pollution problem all too easily. Some of the particles and related toxics in the air fall back into the Bay and into our watersheds, where it washes into waterways. The toxic effects of this transformation of air pollution into water pollution are now documented. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently listed San Francisco Bay as impaired due to the buildup of dioxins and other contaminants in the tissues of fish."

California’s Healthy Hearths Program bans all wood burning devices in new buildings and also bans use of all wood burning devices whenever PM2.5 pollution is forecast to exceed the air quality standard, as do many towns in Oregon (Nov 2018).

Healthy Hearths

Woodheaters in Southern California are said to emit over 5 tons of PM2.5, more than 5 times the PM2.5 pollution of all the power plants in the area.   Stagnant conditions resulted in more than 30 no-burn days to 25 Jan 2018.

Dublin banned smoky home heating - 2,000 fewer deaths over 6 years
The health effects of air pollution are real.  When one study of air pollution, involving six cities, was followed up, PM2.5 had dropped substantially in one city, moderately in another, remaining stable elsewhere. Death rates fell in the first two cities relative to the other four. 
Dublin reduced PM2.5 pollution by banning non-smokeless coal in September 1990.  There were 15.5% fewer respiratory and 10.3% fewer cardiovascular deaths in the 6 years after the ban, compared with the previous 6 years – a total of 696 fewer respiratory and 1458 cardiovascular deaths during the first 6 years of the ban – see Clancy, L., et al., Effect of air-pollution control on death rates in Dublin, Ireland: an intervention study. Lancet, 2002. 360(9341): p. 1210-4.  Having experienced the health benefits, it is hard to imagine Dubliners would want to back to the smoky old days. 

Launceston's successful woodsmoke-reduction campaign included several 30 second TV Ads

Is fireplace culture changing amid valley air woes?
    When longtime Bakersfield resident Tim Stonelake wants to start a fire in his home hearth, he relies on just one kind of fuel: Natural gas.
   Same goes for regulatory affairs consultant Christine Zimmerman, who has avoided burning wood for years out of concern for her family’s health and the health of her neighbors.
   Eric Burrows has stopped wood burning as well. “We have a gas-ready, wood-burning fireplace,” Burrows said in a Facebook comment. “Never burned wood in it.”
   Not so many years ago it seemed having a fire blazing in the home hearth on a cold night was as American as turkey on Thanksgiving.
    But in California's southern San Joaquin Valley, where smoke from winter fires often remains trapped near the ground — in the very air we breathe — attitudes about fireplaces are changing as some in Bakersfield begin to equate wood fires with unnecessarily risking the health of one's neighbors and loved ones.
    Smoke from residential wood burning, especially when the valley's winter inversion layer keeps it trapped low to the ground, not only can irritate the airways, it can be toxic over time, said Jaime Holt, chief communications officer for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
    Tiny particles in wood smoke can cross into the bloodstream, which is especially dangerous for people with heart problems and other conditions. Wood smoke has also been linked to respiratory problems in young children.
... Holt said she has seen a gradual change taking place in the culture and attitudes of many valley residents since 2003, when wood-burning restrictions were first set in motion through the air district's annual "Check Before You Burn" program.
    These days, the district is more likely to get calls from someone complaining of wood burning in their neighborhood, rather than complaining that burning is restricted. 

May 2017: Bay Area douses wood smoke
SAN FRANCISCO >> The Bay Area has cleaned up its air enough to meet the federal health standard for soot and fine pollution particles after a long and controversial campaign to reduce wood burning.
   In making the announcement Thursday, Bay Area air quality regulators said it’s good news for people at risk of asthma and emphysema attacks, strokes and heart attacks, and other ailments aggravated by the fine pollution particles.
   Likened to very tiny razor blades, the particles and droplets finer than the width of a human hair are called PM 2.5. They invade human respiratory and circulatory systems, health experts say.
   “Meeting this air quality milestone is truly a clean air success story for the Bay Area,
and the air district’s 2008 wood-burning rule has played a significant role helping us meet the standard,” said Jack Broadbent, the chief executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
The wood-burning rule banned wood fires during Spare the Air days when unhealthy air is predicted. The rule also banned old-fashioned, wood-burning fireplaces and stoves in new construction....

Some promising wood stove change-out initiatives
14 Dec 2018 County air quality department encourages wood-burning alternatives  The Maricopa County Air Quality Department is asking residents to consider alternatives to burning wood this holiday season. As part of its “Burn Cleaner, Burn Better” campaign, the agency suggested using gas or electric fire pits or fireplaces instead. The Maricopa County Fireplace Retrofit Program offers residents a free pollution reduction device or a voucher for natural gas installation to reduce smoke pollution.

3 Dec 2018. Pittsburgh Magazine. Allegheny County Could Pay You to Convert Your Wood Burning Fireplace A pilot program directed by the Allegheny County Health Department is providing monetary incentives to county residents to convert residential open-hearth fireplaces to vented natural gas-burning fireplaces. Qualifying wood-burning units include traditional masonry fireplaces, pre-fabricated wood-burning fireplaces and uncertified fireplace inserts, according to a press release from the county

November 2018. Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties: $1,500 to replace a wood stove with non-polluting heating (with up to $2,000 more for low-income families)

October 2018. $7.5 million to replace wood stoves in Utah Rebates from $2,800 up to $3,800 have been made available if you exchange an operational wood stove or convert a fireplace to natural gas or propane. You can get $500 to exchange an uncertified wood stove for an EPA certified wood stove, or turn in the wood stove for recycling.
See also: Wood stove rebates run out in Salt Lake in less than a day  "The $2.5-million grant from the EPA ran out in under a day. “Utahns just love a really good deal, and it’s really convenient to switch from wood-burning to natural gas,” said Mark Berger, air quality policy section manager.