The air quality in Western Washington is degrading as cold clear weather continues so the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) is asking residents in Mason, Jefferson, Grays Harbor, Clallam, and Pacific counties to voluntarily reduce or stop using wood stoves and fireplaces. A Stage 2 Burn bans are in effect in Thurston and Pierce counties which means ALL burning is prohibited there. This means NO wood stoves, fireplaces or pellet stoves may be used unless they are the occupants’ sole source of heat. Current conditions, cold night and icy mornings with little wind to clear the air (air stagnation), prompt the use of wood stoves and fireplaces. However, in these conditions any smoke we put in the air around us, stays in the air around us causing pollution levels to rise. Not burning will help prevent lower air quality as wood smoke is 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.