Increased fireplace use impacted air quality

January 24, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

The air in Issaquah turned thick with wood smoke Jan. 20 as residents lit fireplaces for warmth amid a regional power outage.

The agency responsible for monitoring air quality in the region, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, ranked the air quality in King County as moderate for days last week.

The ranking means air quality is acceptable, but for some pollutants a moderate health concern exists. The health concern impacts people sensitive to air pollution — small children, senior citizens and people suffering from chronic health conditions.

What to know

Find daily air quality updates and learn more more about health impacts from air quality, permits and more at the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency website,

The air pollutants can be harmful for people suffering from heart disease, diabetes, asthma and lung diseases. Pollutants pose the most risk to children and older adults.

Amy Warren, a Puget Sound Clean Air Agency spokeswoman, said wood smoke and other pollutants in the air can also affect people in good health as they exert themselves to clean up downed trees or other debris from the recent snow and ice storms.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency officials put a burn ban in place last week, but lifted the order Jan. 14. The possibility of another burn ban in the days after the snowstorm and ice storm is unlikely.

“Given that so many people are without power and relying on stoves or fireplaces for such an immediate need, we wouldn’t call a burn ban in that situation,” Warren said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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2 Responses to “Increased fireplace use impacted air quality”

  1. julie mellum on January 25th, 2012 7:59 pm

    Hiw can anyone justify wood burning for heat and energy when wood smoke is chemically almost identical to tobacco smoke? It is a travesty that children’s health is less important than heating with wood. Many alternatives exist, and burning wood is at the lowest end of the energy pyramid. Wood burning should be phased out and change-outs to gas or electric fireplaces should be incentivized by cities wrestling with air pollution from wood smoke. And that is most cities in our country. Wood smoke in public spaces such as sidewalks, streets and parks violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which requires cities to remove “barriers” to accessing public spaces for all people. To many, wood smoke is a true physical “barrier” that can send a small child or anyone to the emergency room. What if tobacco could be burned for energy and all neighborhoods smelled of tobacco smoke? Wood smoke is no more acceptable. For the facts, see

  2. Ann on January 25th, 2012 11:35 pm

    While I understand and agree with Julie’s view, I feel the need to point out that her suggestion for use of electric fireplaces is invalid in this particular situation. It is rather important to note that this situation is the cause of a power outage, so use of electric appliances would be impossible unless homeowners had access to generators. While I am in no way defending the use of wood-burning fireplaces/stoves, it seems necessary to consider the issues within their context.

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