Utah doctors call for year-round ban on burning wood

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SALT LAKE CITY -- As the weather gets cooler and many Utahns are firing up their wood burning stoves and fireplaces, some Utah doctors are calling for policy that will ban wood burning year round, not just on certain red-air days.

Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said it’s a necessary action.

"We don't have a lot of options,” he said. “We can accept our air pollution is not solvable, we can stop driving all our cars, we can tell industry to shut down, or we can stop burning wood."

Research done during a winter inversion period shows that wood burning in stoves, fireplaces, and grills produce as much particulate pollution as all of the cars we have on the roads. The findings also show the toxic chemicals in wood smoke is just as bad, if not worse, than second-hand cigarette smoke. The research also shows that prenatal exposure to wood smoke can impact the health of the baby and generations to come.

Doctors said, in addition to the poor carbon footprint, the health hazards from wood smoke are severe.

"The particles from wood smoke are so small that you really can't escape them, no matter what building you go into or what home or whatever,” Moench said. “It seeps almost seamlessly in virtually every edifice that we have. The second thing is, because it's so small, it then gets breathed deeply into the lungs and then gets distributed throughout the body. The third thing is wood smoke has attached to it some of the most toxic chemicals that there are."

Emergency room physician Howie Garber agreed.

"People that are having a nice fireplace in their home, not only are they affecting their neighbors but they're ruining their own health,” he said.

Salt Lake resident Ann Coker has a coal and wood burning fireplace in her home, and she said she would be fine with the ban if it went into effect.

"I think we all have to adjust with changes,” Coker said. “I think we need to do what's best for ourselves, the community, and the air environment, so I think changes are inevitable and I think people just need to make a change."

Department of Air Quality officials said there are 230 residents in non-attainment areas where wood burning is their sole source of heat. DAQ officials said this suggested year-round ban would need to go through the standard process of a formal vote and public comment period. The DAQ's next meeting will be Nov. 6.


    • Barbara

      Sean, not everyone is the same. Some people are more likely to suffer. The young, elderly, or those with asthma, lung and heart conditions are more likely to be affected by wood smoke. Since forever it has probably been this way, but now we know how to save some lives by not burning.

  • Bill

    I’ll have to sell my home because of the increased cost of electricity and natural gas. Where do these do-gooders come from? Why hasn’t the media interviewed someone that has a need to burn their stove? I don’t know which is worse the government or the media!

  • Barbara

    It’s an issue now because we have learned more about the toxic chemicals in wood smoke. In California, the largest air quality district in the world compared the harmful cancer-causing particulates from one wood fire to the second hand smoke of 800 cigarettes!

  • chelsey

    They definitely need to BAN wood burning stoves in this area! There needs to be something done about Utah having the WORST air quality in the nation!

  • Rita

    Why do people refuse to better themselves or their environment? Please people educate yourself. It is obvious that wood burning stoves need to be banned.

  • Dustin

    KSL can we please see a list of the doctors involved in this so we can choose not to give them our business. This is unreal. How is wood today somehow more toxic than it was 100 years ago? Yet another attack on freedom, simply put if I want to burn wood that is my choice. If I choose not to care about the environment that is my choice. Why do people think that everyone has to live the way they want them to?

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