The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) is asking residents to reduce burning for the next few days due to air quality concerns. According to a news release, as we end 2012, temperatures are expected to be chilly, with little wind to clear the air. Cold nights and foggy mornings tend to prompt more use of woodstoves and fireplaces. These conditions also tend to trap smoke closer to the ground which could cause air pollution levels to rise, decreasing air quality. In the interest of public health and safety, the ORCAA asks that all residents VOLUNTARILY refrain from burning unless absolutely necessary. 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. In addition to minimizing the use of woodstoves and fireplaces, ORCAA asks homeowners to use alternative means of disposal to clean up their yards. Chipping and composting are the best option, though other alternatives to burning are also available. You can find more details on the options at www.orcaa.org or by calling your local waste disposal company.