Today is Earth Day, 22 April 2010, and is a good time to think about air quality in your area and globally.
Find out what are the main sources of air pollution where you live. What can be done to reduce or avoid them?
Good sources of information on air quality are the various state government departments of environment (see the Air Quality Data webpage), and maybe also your local council.
This year 2010 is the Year of the Lung. It aims to raise awareness about the importance of lung health and its prevention and treatment. Hundreds of millions of people struggle each year for life and breath due to lung disease and yet the devastating impact of lung disease is still not recognized.
Lung disease is a growing health issue in Australia. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is more common in any year than most common types of cancer, road traffic accidents, heart disease or diabetes. Approximately 2.1 million cases were reported in 2007/2008.By 2050, this figure is expected to more than double to 4.5 million Australians. More than 9,100 Australians are diagnosed with lung cancer each year.
More than 2 million Australians reported having asthma during 2007 – 2008. 11.3% of children aged 0 to 15 have asthma. Between 9.9% and 15.1% of adults have asthma.
The goal of 2010: The Year of the Lung campaign is to create greater awareness of overall lung health.
Lung health can be improved by avoiding smoking, exercising regularly and avoiding pollutants when possible.
14 October: World Spirometry Day - 'Test Your Lungs Day'
Outdoor wood-burners or chmineas may become more popular in Australia since they have featured in lifestyle programs and magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens and Burke's Backyard. However from the experiences in the U.S. and Canada, they look like they could become yet another source of air pollution in suburban neighbourhoods.
In Barrie, Ontario, the City Council has been keeping close tabs on them for the last couple of years - neighbour complaints, by-law infractions and the amount of time firefighters spend attending to and sorting through the complaints. They take up a lot of time and money and also take fire crews away from more important matters, says Deputy Fire Chief Rick Monkman. The matter goes before council again on April 12. If council votes to ban the appliances, it's likely to take effect January 1st, 2012, a little under two years from now, which Monkman says is the the average life-span of the devices before they start deteriorating.
Some councils prohibit outdoor burning anyway. In Elmira (New York), Fire Marshal William Wheeler, reminds city residents that free-standing outdoor fire pits and chimeneas -- front-loading fireplaces or ovens with a bulbous body and vertical smoke vent or chimney -- are illegal if they are wood-burning. Those that are fueled by natural gas, propane or charcoal, however, are allowed because they are smoke-free, he said. Smoke pollution is the main issue, and since the chimneys are usually 6 to 8 feet from the ground, there is going to be a pollution problem, he said.
Wood smoke is not just a nuisance. For people with medical problems like asthma, bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it can be a health hazard, he said. "It's not that we don't believe that responsible people can have a fire in a fire pit with a screened cover on it and do it safely. The idea is that the neighbor next door can't open his bedroom windows," Wheeler said. "We're not out in the country."
Open burning has always been pretty much prohibited in the city, he said. The fire prevention section in the city code of ordinances was changed in 2004 because it became apparent the city was experiencing an influx of outdoor wood-burning devices that mostly did not follow air pollution requirements as regular wood stoves do, he said.
Reference: Barrie Examiner 29 March 2010
The Australian and New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4013 - "Domestic solid fuel burning appliances: Method for determination of flue gas emission" was published by Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand in 1999, and set the limit for particle emissions from woodheaters at 4g of particulates per kilogram of fuel burnt, averaged over three burn cycles. The standard was initially adopted voluntarily in Australia and New Zealand, and has become mandatory under state legislation in Australia.
New Zealand introduced national environment standards in 2005 which required all new wood burners installed on properties less than two hectares to have a maximum particle emission of 1.5g/kg and a minimum efficiency of 65% when tested in accordance with AS/NZS 4012/4013. More stringent rules are applied in some regional councils. In Christchurch new woodheaters must be less than 1g/kg, and heaters over 15 year old are prohibited (see Environment Canterbury website for details). In some air zones in Otago, particle emissions from new woodheaters must be less than 0.7g/kg.
This graph shows the distribution of emission ratings for woodheater models approved for urban areas in Australia and New Zealand (as at March 2010). Only 6 models are listed with emissions 1g/kg or less in Australia.
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