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Sun Feb 17, 2013, 01:57 AM

Fairbanks area, trying to stay warm, chokes on wood stove pollution

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-fairbanks-air-pollution-20130217,0,1737295.story

Fairbanks area, trying to stay warm, chokes on wood stove pollution
Wood-burning stoves give the Fairbanks, Alaska, area some of the worst winter air pollution in the country.
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
6:17 PM PST, February 16, 2013

NORTH POLE, Alaska — In Krystal Francesco's neighborhood, known here as the "rectangle of death," the air pollution recently was so thick she could hardly see across the street. Wood stoves were cranking all over town — it was 40 below zero — and she had to take her daughter to the emergency room.

"She's crying because she can't breathe, and I can just see her stomach rapidly going in and out. Sometimes, she's coughing to the point of throwing up," Francesco said of her 2½-year-old daughter, Kalli, who uses two different inhalers. "Even in the house, the smoke is coming in and it smells awful."

Most people think of Alaska as one of the last great escapes from urban pollution. But they have not spent a winter in Fairbanks or the nearby town of North Pole, where air-quality readings in November were twice as bad as Beijing's.

Here, it's not freeways or factories fouling the air — it's wood stoves and backyard wood furnaces that send thick clouds of gray smoke roiling into the pines. On the cold, clear days when the temperature hits minus 50, an inversion layer often traps a blanket of smoke near the ground, and driving to work in North Pole can be like motoring through fog.

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Reply Fairbanks area, trying to stay warm, chokes on wood stove pollution (Original post)
jsr Feb 2013 OP
upi402 Feb 2013 #1
Warpy Feb 2013 #2
RILib Feb 2013 #3
King_Klonopin Feb 2013 #4
PotatoChip Feb 2013 #5

Response to jsr (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:12 AM

1. Been to both locations

I would add burning off stuff to the list of things adding to the pollution there.

Burning garbage, waste of ALL kinds - no good to breathe.

Sorry for the little kid...

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:38 AM

2. We have alerts around here

when we're fined for using fireplaces or wood stoves. We're in a valley and air inversions happen fairly frequently. Fortunately, they usually coincide with the warmer weather in the high desert and the average woodstove would get the interior temperature well over 100 on such days, so it's just as well.

I feel sorry for folks in Fairbanks because wood's about all they have. There are no alternative fuels, not really. Catalytic converters can help, but retrofits can be expensive.

Eventually, they're going to need state help to do just that.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 04:37 AM

3. I have new neighbors

 

whose house is about twenty feet from mine, who use a firepit on their deck. Even with all my windows and doors closed, the smoke gets in my house. After a few times of this, I wound up in the ER and using a steroid inhaler for months. They've been away since October but will be back in the spring, which I really dread. Talking to them politely got me cursed out.

I don't think people realize what a major pollutant wood smoke is. When I lived in California, in my area at least, new construction that included wood as heat had to have stringent air pollution control devices.

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 05:12 AM

4. New South Park Character:

Ms Choksonwood

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Response to jsr (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:12 AM

5. This article is very misleading.

They make it sound as if woodstoves are the issue at hand, when in reality, the air quality problem they are referring to is mostly due to several wood boilers situated near an elementary school. Wood boilers are a whole different animal (so to speak) than woodstoves.

From a different article:
With a handful of smoky hydronic heaters in the area, the school has suffered through particularly bad air pollution during the past few years. Students will have to spend some recesses indoors because of the pollution and the group says recently installed air filters don’t keep all the smoke out of the classrooms.

In a letter to Parnell, the group wrote:

“We need your help to stop the immediate pollution of our air by at least two outdoor wood burning hydronic boilers located directly across the street from the Woodriver elementary campus.”

http://www.newsminer.com/article_2b4ea365-657b-56d5-9f69-f237048a4a84.html


Additionally, further down in the OP's linked article, a former resident of Fairbanks says that she and her husband had to move due to her husband's health, because people are burning things other than wood, such as coal which is far worse than woodstoves and even wood boilers:

"This whole thing has gotten conflated in Fairbanks: 'My wood burner is next to my gun — don't take it out of my cold, dead hands,'" said Sylvia Schultz, who runs a clean air advocacy website. Schultz moved to Washington state in July after her husband was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and her daughter faced the prospect of attending middle school in a high-smoke zone.

"What's different in Fairbanks is that people are burning not just wood, but coal, and no one's stopping it. They're promoting it," Schultz said.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-fairbanks-air-pollution-20130217,0,1737295.story


So, while I do not deny that woodstoves, like many other forms of heating sources emit some pollutants, they are not as bad as this article makes them out to be. It is a shame that it spawned (or is the spawn of) many other articles repeating the same misleading information.

Woodstoves (depending on region) are an inexpensive, renewable form of energy for homeowners. Furthermore, all woodstoves sold after 1992 must, by law meet a certain energy efficiency standards. These improvements are environmentally significant enough to have prompted many states to offer generous financial incentives for people to update to the newer models.


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