Residential wood smoke is one of the most significant sources of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Metro Vancouver.
impact on human health
Much like cigarette smoke, wood smoke contains hundreds of air pollutants. Some of the constituents of wood smoke are toxic and can cause cancer and other health problems.
Residential wood smoke can increase PM pollution to levels that cause significant health concerns such as asthma attacks, heart attacks, or even premature death. Tiny particles may be inhaled deep into the lung tissue and cause coughing, wheezing, chest pain and shortness of breath, and make you more prone to illness. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing lung and heart disease are especially vulnerable, but even healthy individuals can experience eye, nose and throat irritation as a result of exposure to wood smoke.
impact on the environment
Wood smoke has a distinctive odour and can cause a nuisance in densely populated neighbourhoods negatively affecting quality of life for residents. In addition, the fine particulate found in wood smoke can contribute to the haze that may obscure scenic views in the region, further impacting quality of life.
Regulation of residential wood smoke
Residents are not prohibited from using a wood stove or fireplace provided they meet the conditions of the GVRD Air Quality Management Bylaw. Even properly operated fireplaces and wood stoves burning clean, dry fuel will generate odours, and visible emissions will be observable from time to time, especially on cold start-ups. Metro Vancouver’s activities related to wood burning emissions are generally limited to making people aware that they may be impacting their neighbours and providing information on proper burning techniques which minimize smoke generation.
However, under no circumstances can pollution be caused. Enforcement action by Metro Vancouver is possible in severe cases where pollution can be proven, although the threshold for pollution as defined in law is very high as is the burden of proof required. A wood smoke diary is one tool that can help us to establish the frequency and impacts of burning or smoke emissions.
The burning of garbage is explicitly prohibited.