Home fires may not burn as often under strict new air-quality laws

While stopping short of advising Bay Area residents to hold their breath, clean air experts say they expect more pollution warnings this winter as stricter federal air-quality standards kick in.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, poised to take effect in December, would cut by half the amount of miniscule particles — known as particulate matter — allowed in the air in a 24-hour period before an advisory must be issued, according to experts.

Wood-burning fireplaces and vehicle emissions — especially on cold, still nights — are the primary dangers, said Terry Lee, spokeswoman for Breath California, a non-profit formerly associated with the American Lung Association of California. “It has been shown in numerous studies that when we exceed federal and state air quality standards for particulate matter, there is an increase in respiratory stress, hospital admissions and even premature death” in extreme cases, Lee said.

The more rigorous standard is likely to trigger multiple air advisories, unseen in the Bay Area since 2002, Bay Area Air Quality Management District records show. Ordinances promoted by the district and adopted by many Bay Area cities in past years have required new and sometimes remodeled homes to have low- or no-emission fireplaces, which has reduced pollution noticeably, said Luna Salaver, district spokeswoman.

Natural filters in the human nose and lungs are helpless against the microscopic particles, which embed themselves in the respiratory system, Lee said. “The particles can’t be coughed out,” she said. The most vulnerable include children, seniors and those with asthma, emphysema or other breathing problems.

The holidays are favorite times to stoke the hearth with family around, but with 1.5 million homes with fireplaces in the Bay Area, clean air experts are calling on residents to abstain from lighting up, or show restraint.

The district’s winter Spare the Air Tonight program will run Nov. 20 through Feb. 16, 2007. On days when pollution exceeds the new 35 micrograms per cubic meter level, a warning will be issued, officials said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

newsUS

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read