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Wood smoke is harmful

As an environmentalist, engineer and professor of alternative energy, the "Inconvenient Truth" is that the irresponsible application of technology can create environmental conditions worse than global warming. The myth of wood heat being "carbon neutral" is part of an irresponsible ad campaign by an industry group that is making claims that heating with wood protects us from global warming. With the intent of reducing global warming, and saving money, some people have been convinced that it is OK to sicken their neighbors and neighborhoods with asthma and bronchitis-causing smoke.

Wood smoke is the other "second hand smoke" and has been well documented to contain high levels of fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution; PM2.5 are so small that they can pass directly into the bloodstream and also contain many carcinogens such as benzene and formaldehyde that cause eye and lung irritation as well. Communities that have banned and properly regulated Outdoor Wood Boilers (OWBs) have acted responsibly; an OWB produces more than 1,500 times the pollution of a natural gas furnace (go to: www.burningissues.org).

The manufacturers of OWBs have enlisted the services of clever marketers to convince people that it is their patriotic duty to part with up to $20,000 to spew smoke with their devices. Please excuse my cynicism, but if these fine particulate salesmen have their way and provide the dirtiest form of heat on every city block, how will air pollution improve the quality of our lives and save the planet?

Instead of spending several thousand dollars on an OWB, it is better to simply conserve energy. It is more cost-effective and less polluting to upgrade the insulation, windows and heating systems in our homes as well as install solar panels or wind turbines to save money and utilize truly clean renewable energy.

It has been 38 years since our nation's technology placed men on the moon, as a nation, we should also be able to heat our homes with best available technologies that do not harm our health. Our heating technologies should evolve beyond basic wood burning methods that cavemen used some 500,000 years ago. While cavemen could be carefree with only one million people in the world, to protect the present environmental interests and energy resources of nearly seven billion people requires considerable planning and discipline. The resolution to the global warming problem will require further advances in technology and the full cooperation of all persons.

Stopping global warming must not result in greater levels of pollution; fine particulate air pollution is not a small problem.





Professor Curt M. Freedman, PE, CEM

Longmeadow