Cold, Clear Weather Leads to Air Pollution Concerns

ORCAAAs the region settles into colder conditions and periods of overnight and morning fog, the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency is concerned smoke from outdoor burning will elevate pollution levels. These conditions tend to prompt more use of woodstoves and fireplaces. Unfortunately, in these conditions any smoke we put into the air around us, stays in the air around us. ORCAA asks homeowners who traditionally burn their yard waste to use alternative means of disposal when cleaning up their yard debris. Chipping and composting are the best option, though other alternatives to burning are also available. You can find more details on the options at or by calling your local waste disposal company. To further reduce smoke impacts, residents who heat with wood stoves or fireplaces must burn only clean, dry firewood in their home heating appliances. Their wood should be properly cured – less than 20-percent moisture – and free of dirt and debris. The woodstoves must also be properly maintained and operated so the fire draws enough oxygen to ensure complete combustion. That ensures you’ll get the maximum value from your fuel with the absolute minimum smoke. Visit for additional tips on clean burning practices.

Burning wood creates smoke composed of fine and very fine particulate matter (PM2.5). These tiny particles are too small to be filtered by the nose and the body’s other natural defense mechanisms, so they may end up being inhaled deep into the lungs. That means that exposure to wood smoke may, at the very least, cause breathing problems and can increase – sometimes substantially increase – the severity of existing lung disease, such as asthma. Smoke also has been shown to aggravate heart and vascular disease.