A residential fireplace burns wood.
A residential fireplace burns wood. Photo via Pixabay

The South Coast Air Quality Management District Wednesday launched its annual fall and winter “Check Before You Burn” program, which is aimed at improving Southern California’s air quality by restricting wood burning in residential fireplaces on days when air pollution levels are high.

Check Before You Burn runs from November through the end of February.

“Southern Californians want to understand impacts to air quality and are demonstrating their willingness to make changes for the good of public health,” said SCAQMD Executive Officer Wayne Nastri. “The Check Before You Burn program is part of this effort, and when residents are aware of and comply with no-burn days, then together we improve the air quality in the region.”

Though some might consider wood smoke “natural,” smoke caused by burning wood in fireplaces can emit more than five tons of harmful PM2.5 — fine particulate matter — emissions per day in the South Coast Air Basin, which is more than three times the amount of PM2.5 emitted from all of the power plants in the Southland, according to the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

And while air quality in the region has improved dramatically in recent decades — PM2.5 levels have dropped by 51 percent since 2000 — Southern California still has some of the worst air quality in the nation, according to the SCAQMD.

Particulate matter in the air can cause throat and eye irritation, aggravate asthma and trigger other respiratory conditions. Breathing high levels of particulate matter over long periods of time can also cause more serious health problems.

No-burn alerts are issued by SCAQMD when stagnant weather conditions elevate fine particulate pollution to unhealthy levels. On no-burn days, burning wood in fireplaces, backyard fire pits and wood stoves across the entire South Coast Air Basin are prohibited.

Residents can sign up for no-burn alerts at www.AirAlerts.org and can also call a toll-free hotline — (866) 966-3293 — to learn if an alert is in effect. More information is available on the SCAQMD’s website at www.aqmd.gov .

–City News Service

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