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AQMD Approves "Healthy Hearths" Program to Reduce Pollution from Residential Wood Burning

Mar. 7, 2008

Southland air quality officials today approved a “Healthy Hearths” initiative to reduce harmful fine particulate pollution from fireplaces and wood stoves through a regulation, incentive program and public outreach effort.

“Wood smoke from fireplaces and wood stoves causes more than four times as much fine particulate pollution as all the power plants in our region,” said William Burke, Ed.D., AQMD’s Governing Board Chairman.  “It is time for residents to play a greater role in protecting their families’ and communities’ health by helping to reduce wood smoke pollution.”

Wood stoves and other wood-burning devices are used in an estimated 1.4 million households in the Southland.  They emit an average of 6 tons per day of PM2.5 emissions – more than four times the 1.4 tons per day of PM2.5 emitted by all of the power plants in the four-county region.  During winter, PM2.5 emissions from fireplaces and other wood-burning appliances are about 13 tons per day.  PM2.5 pollution is associated with a wide range of adverse health impacts including an increase in premature deaths, particularly among those with heart and lung disease.  The Southland has the highest PM2.5 levels in the nation.

More than a dozen air districts in Central and Northern California as well as many cities and regions across the West already have wood burning programs in effect.  State law requires AQMD to adopt a wood-burning measure since it has been demonstrated as a feasible PM2.5 reduction measure by other air districts.

AQMD’s Healthy Hearths initiative, identified by a colorful logo, includes three major components:

  • AQMD’s Rule 445 – Wood Burning Devices – adopted today, is the first regulation in Southern California to reduce pollution from wood-burning fireplaces and other devices through requirements for new construction, a potential future curtailment of burning in specified areas when poor air quality is forecast, and other measures;
  • A $500,000 pilot incentive program, approved today, to encourage residents to convert existing wood-burning fireplaces to clean-burning gas logs.  The program, offering an incentive of $100 to $150 per gas log set, will be launched this fall; and

  • A public outreach campaign prior to 2011 informing residents of the health effects of wood smoke and days when air pollution levels are forecast to be unhealthy.

AQMD’s Rule 445 includes the following provisions:

  • Beginning March 9, 2009, only fireplaces fueled by gas (such as gas logs) may be installed in a new residential or commercial building in the Southland.  Permanently installed indoor or outdoor wood-burning fireplaces or stoves are not permitted after this date in new construction;
  • Beginning September 8, 2008, only the cleanest-burning wood stoves and heaters, and dedicated gas heaters, may be sold in the Southland and permanently installed in existing homes and buildings.  These include U.S. EPA Phase II-certified fireplace inserts or stoves; pellet-fueled heaters; masonry heaters or gas heating units such as gas inserts or gas logs;

  • Effective immediately, commercial wood sellers in the four-county region may only sell seasoned wood (with less than 20 percent moisture content) from July 1 through February each year;

  • Effective immediately, residents cannot burn trash or other items not intended to be used as fuel in a fireplace or wood stove; and

  • Beginning on Nov. 1, 2011, AQMD will issue mandatory wood-burning curtailments from November through February in specific areas on days when PM2.5 levels are forecast to reach unhealthy levels.  The curtailments would start in 2011 only if needed to achieve federal air quality goals.  To learn if a mandatory curtailment is in effect, residents can call a recorded message, check AQMD’s website or sign up for electronic e-mail notices.  AQMD will also distribute curtailment notifications to news media.

The rule includes several exemptions, including cook stoves such as wood-burning stoves and ovens used in restaurants, and historical buildings.  Properties located 3,000 feet above sea level, low-income households or those without natural gas access are exempt from curtailment requirements.

The Healthy Hearths program implements a control measure in the 2007 Air Quality Management Plan and is an important component of AQMD’s overall effort to meet a 2014 deadline for achieving the federal PM2.5 health-based standard.

The California Air Resources Board estimates that PM2.5 pollution from all sources in the Southland result in approximately 5,000 premature deaths per year.  AQMD’s new Healthy Hearths program is expected to reduce approximately one ton per day of PM2.5 emissions by 2014.

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


This page updated: March 05, 2013