Check Before You Burn Program Begins; Emphasizes the Harmful Effects of Smoke from Wood-Burning Fireplaces

November 10, 2016

South Coast AQMD requires residents to not burn wood in their fireplaces on days when air pollution levels are high

DIAMOND BAR, Calif. -- The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has launched its annual fall and winter air pollution prevention program, Check Before You Burn, this month.  The program is aimed at improving Southern California’s air quality by restricting wood burning in residential fireplaces on days when air pollution levels are high, from November through February.

A recent SCAQMD survey of residents found that 83 percent of respondents agreed that programs like Check Before You Burn are important to improving air quality, with 72 percent reporting they would refrain from burning wood on a designated no-burn day.

“This clearly demonstrates the importance of the Check Before You Burn program among Southern Californians,” said SCAQMD’s Acting Executive Officer Wayne Nastri.  “We encourage everyone to do their part to improve our air quality and stay informed of no-burn days.”

Although 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 – more than three times the amount of PM2.5 emitted from all of the power plants in the Southland.  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 for 24-hour periods for residential wood-burning fireplaces, backyard fire pits and wood stoves when stagnant weather conditions raises fine particulate pollution to unhealthy levels. Alerts are distributed for specific areas or the entire South Coast Air Basin that encompasses Orange County and the non-desert portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, depending on the air quality forecast.

The Check Before You Burn program encourages residents to take the pledge to Check Before You Burn and sign up for no-burn alerts at www.AirAlerts.org.

The fall and wintertime program became mandatory on November 1, 2011, under the provisions of SCAQMD’s Rule 445 – Wood-Burning Devices. For more information about SCAQMD and the Check Before You Burn program, please visit www.healthyhearths.org or call the toll-free hotline at 866-966-3293 to learn if an alert is in effect.

The program this year follows the worst summer smog season for Southern California in years, with bad air days and ozone pollution levels not seen since 2009.  Weather conditions conducive to smog formation resulted in 132 unhealthful air days this past summer, compared to 112 days in 2015. Air quality has improved dramatically since the 1990s: Peak ozone levels have dropped by nearly 50 percent despite robust growth in the region’s population and economy. However, Southern California still has some of the worst air quality in the nation.

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties

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[1] Gomez Research, SCAQMD Check Before You Burn Public Opinion Survey 2016, October 2016, Pasadena, Calif.