Health officials declare winter Spare the Air Day


Weather conditions forecast for today are expected to create unhealthy air quality and have prompted officials to declare the first winter Spare the Air Day of the season.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced Tuesday that air quality was expected to be unhealthy due to conditions that will trap smoke in the air close to the ground.

The alert bans the indoor and outdoor burning of wood, manufactured firelogs, or any other solid fuel. During winter months, wood smoke is the leading cause of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area, air district executive officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement.

"Smoke from one person's fire pollutes the air around surrounding neighbors' homes," he said.

The air district is the regional agency chartered with protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area. Wood smoke contains harmful pollutants, such as soot and carbon monoxide, and toxins such as dioxin, which has been linked to increased cancer rates in adults.

About one-third of the harmful soot in the winter air can be attributed to wood smoke from the 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves in the Bay Area, according to the district.

The pollutants can cause breathing difficulties, especially in children, seniors, and those with heart of lung conditions. Residents must check the daily burn status -- which can be found online at -- before burning wood during the Winter Spare the Air season, which began Nov. 1 and runs through Feb. 28.

Those who choose to flout the wood-burning ban could face hefty fines. First-time offenders will receive a warning, but a second violation is subject to a $400 ticket. Subsequent violations will result in steeper fines, although the district did not disclose specific numbers.

Residents and businesses that burn wood as their only source of heat are exempt from the ban. Stagnant air conditions last week caused air officials to ask residents to voluntarily refrain from wood burning, which succeeded in preventing the need to declare a Spare the Air day then.

— Bay City News Service

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Like this comment
Posted by air pollution sucks
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2010 at 10:44 am

ABC news has a good report on why air pollution sucks: Web Link
Emergency room visits spike on these Spare the Air days. Please do your part to help keep your neighbors healthy.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

there is a typo in the link to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District so the link in the article does not work; the correct link is Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by another palo alto resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm

My dream is for every day to be a Spare the Air Day. The noxious and stinky smoke from everyone's fireplaces and wood stoves is often overwhelming. While I do not have health issues, I still start coughing if I dare leave my house in the evening or during a holiday. I can't imagine what people with any health conditions must go through. Burning a fire is not a necessity in this area. Almost everyone has access to a decent heating system. People may enjoy "watching" the fire but they don't have to breathe it as it blows towards their neighbor. People who consider themselves "green" and conscientious might consider passing on having a fire if they thought more about other people's needs.

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