SW wood burners asked to refrain on 'bad air days'
Those who burn wood for heat or effect this time of year in SW Portland
are being asked to heed bad air alerts and help out their neighbors who have breathing issues.
New restrictions on the burning of wood in Mutnomah County were approved by County Commissioners last year but were only in effect for a couple of weeks of winter. They are now in effect until the first of March next year.
Burning wood in stoves and fireplaces indoors and in outdoor fire pits would be banned on days when the Multnomah County Department of Health issues a Red Alert for poor air quality.
"Going forward, we would expect to maybe see 3-6 bad curtailment days or red days across the winter season, but it's highly dependent on weather conditions," according to Nadege Dubuisson with Multnomah County's Department of Public Health. multco.us/health/staying-healthy/wood-smoke-pollution
It's estimated that in SW Portland less one third of the residences burn wood this time of year
and that's mostly in fireplaces. Only five percent of those SW residents rely on wood as their sole source of heat.
The same DEQ study www.oregon.gov/deq/FilterDocs/WoodburningSurvey.pdf from three years ago
found that those five percent of wood burners use 51% of all the wood burned and the majority are using
uncertified wood stoves. Two thirds of the residents of SW Portland don't burn wood at all, according to data in the study.
Winter wood smoke advisories will be issued daily until March 1. Air quality will be graded as okay to burn (Green), caution advised (Yellow) and no burning (Red). The new rules don't apply for those who burn wood to stay warm and those who qualify for Energy assistance Programs (income below $47,210 for a family of four). multco.us/health/staying-healthy/winter-wood-burning-restrictions
These new restrictions and requirements will not be enforced with a heavy hand by the County, "We hope people will voluntarily comply with these new rules, and consider the most vulnerable among us before burning wood on the worst air quality days of winter," said Dubuisson who added that "Enforcement will be complaint driven".
According to the American Lung Association, "Burning wood produces emissions that are widely recognized as harmful
to human health."
Dubuisson, who coordinates air pollution policy for the County, adds some specifics. "Wood smoke contains tiny particles that
get deep into our lungs when we breathe, making it one of the largest sources of cancer-causing chemicals in our air. People
who suffer from heart and lung diseases are particularly sensitive to wood smoke. Wood smoke can harm healthy people as well,
causing breathing difficulties and eye irritation."
She believes that updated data in SW Portland would show a decline in the number of wood burning stoves but a steady use of fireplaces this time of year.