In the Bay Area automobiles and the burning of wood in fireplaces and wood stoves are the primary sources of PM2.5 air pollution. PM2.5 stands for “Particulate Matter at 2.5 microns or less", meaning that it is so small that it can be seen with only the most powerful microscopes. But therein lies its danger.
PM2.5 is so miniscule that it can travel deep into the lungs and cause permanent lung damage. The elderly and children with asthma are especially affected by PM2.5 and clinical studies show that hospital admissions and premature deaths increase as PM2.5 concentrations rise. This is especially threatening during the winter months when fires are used as ornamental features and cars are used more often due to the winter weather. In addition to PM2.5, smoke created by burning wood contains thousands of chemicals such as carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde and dioxin. These pollutants can lodge deep in the lungs and cause disease, aggravate asthma, and reduce the body’s ability to fight infections.
Here are some ways you can help spare the air and prevent increases in PM2.5 pollution.
- Do not burn natural wood. Convert your fireplace to burn natural gas – it burns much cleaner.
- If you must burn wood, use only dry, seasoned wood. Start with a small fire using softwoods.
- Never burn garbage, glossy paper or wood that has been painted or treated.
- Don’t burn wood or barbeque when a Spare the Air advisory is issued.
- Minimize driving, use alternative transportation modes or carpool.
A few ways you can take action and who you can contact.
- Report Air Pollution Incidents:
Bay Area Air Quality Management District 24 hour toll-free complaint hotline, 1-800-334-ODOR(6367)
- Report Smoking Vehicles:
If you spot a vehicle emitting excess smoke, call 1-800-EXHAUST, fill out a form online, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to include the license number, date, time and place the vehicle was spotted in your e-mail. The Air District will send a letter to the vehicle owners notifying them of the air quality consequences of smoking vehicles, warning them of the possibility of being cited, and encouraging them to have their vehicle checked and repaired.
- Get Informed:
Sign-up for advanced warning of Spare the Air Advisories
- Learn how to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
For More Information:
American Lung Association of San Francisco & San Mateo Counties
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
Last updated: 12/14/2010 3:52:10 PM