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AQMD’s Next Move: Banning wood-burning fireplaces in homes

Beach-Fire-PitsLast week the Air Quality Management District Board voted 7-6 to issue a new rule banning beach fire pits within 700 feet of homes. AQMD Staff indicated that standing around a beach fire pit is equivalent to breathing the air from 3 diesel trucks or 800 cigarettes. The new regulations will coincidentally cause the removal of fire pits from Newport Beach, the ONLY city that has been advocating for their removal.

While I sympathize with the residents of multi-million dollar homes on the beaches of Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar who are actually experiencing the health effects from air pollution that is delivered to their beachfront windows, decks, and patios, I have to ask… Why did you buy homes near to fire pits that pre-exist your residency? What were you thinking?

I suspect that the real reason for your concern has more to do with you breathing easier when those people from outside your neighborhood chose to visit a different beach, than breathing easier.

At any rate, the AQMD determination about the smoke pollution from wood burning fires got me thinking. The AQMD board members may have painted themselves into a corner. Since it is settled science that the smoke from being in the close proximity to a wood burning fire is a health hazard, then being around any smoke at all should do the trick. After all, I know of no studies that suggest there are any acceptable levels of exposure to cigarette smoke or diesel truck exhaust.

Let’s say that the typical beach bonfire is about three-times as polluting as a fire in a home fire place. This would be the equivalent of exposure to 267 burning cigarettes, and the exhaust of one diesel truck engine. In that case each and every wood burning fire in the fireplaces of those multi-million dollar homes provides an unacceptable health hazard for those unfortunate enough to live downwind. In fact, the number of wood burning fireplaces in southern California probably number in the tens of thousands.

FireplaceThe AQMD already regulates the use of wood-burning fireplaces in its four county jurisdiction. New developments cannot install new wood-burning fire places and from November through February each winter mandatory wood-burning curtailments are in effect during days and in specific areas when poor air quality is forecast. So a jump to banning wood burning in all fireplaces in Southern California shouldn’t be such a leap. We expect that the vigilance for the public health by the AQMD will be just as tough on the offending wood burning fireplaces within 700 feet of other homes, as they have been on those nasty fire pits clouding up the views from beach front homes of Newport Beach and attracting all sorts of Riff-Raff.

I think that’s up next.