Smoke turns the sun orange during wildfire season in B.C. back in 2015. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen file)

Smoke turns the sun orange during wildfire season in B.C. back in 2015. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen file)

Editorial: Smoky chimney? Consider health impacts on others

Consider those with respiratory problems, other health conditions significantly worsened by smoke

Santa beware. There are some really smoky chimneys in the Cowichan Valley.

As winter has set in, after what had to be the shortest fall on record, air quality has noticeably plummeted in many areas of the Cowichan Valley. This is largely due to people stoking up their wood stoves and fireplaces as the temperatures dropped precipitously, seemingly from one day to the next.

We don’t begrudge anybody the ability to warm themselves, however we hope those with wood burning appliances will consider those with respiratory problems and other health conditions that are significantly worsened by smoke when they use those appliances.

A bulletin from Island Health recently addressed this issue, noting that “wood smoke can also pose serious health concerns….This smoke contains fine particulate matter, gases and pollutants that can travel deep into the lungs.”

It states that while for some smoky air is an irritant to eyes and throats, for others it can lead to lung and heart disease, and is especially bad for people with pre-existing health conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infections (think of all the kids this winter being hit with the flu). It’s hardest on older adults, pregnant people, infants and young children.

Because it’s a valley, ringed with mountains that keep the smoke in, Cowichan is one of the worst places on the Island for air quality issues.

That will come as no surprise to people who have ventured outdoors of late. At times the air quality has seemed almost as bad as when forest fires were sending smoke our way in the summer.

It’s not too much to ask that people think about the very serious health impacts they could be inflicting on others when they burn, and at the very least make sure they using the cleanest burning appliance and fuel they can. Island Health also suggests considering cleaner heating options like heat pumps and pellet stoves. This is a good idea, at least for your main heat source, if financially possible.

Residents are also reminded not to burn their backyard clippings and prunings. These should be composted, chipped or taken — for free! — to the transfer station.

People in Cowichan should be able to go out on a beautiful sunny winter day and not choke on all the smoke.

One day it might be you or someone you love who is in that group for whom poor air quality is a serious hazard.

air qualityEditorials