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  • New video warns about breathing fine particulates

    Dec 22, 2016 | Read More News
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    Wood-burning fireplaces, outdoor fire pits and fireworks can be fun for New Year’s celebrations, but the smoke from them can be a hazard for those who breathe it. A new public service announcement video about this topic was released by the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) and is based on work and drawings from a recent University of Arizona student intern. The video is on YouTube.
    videoPDEQ staff reviewed last year’s air quality monitoring data and noticed that the highest levels of fine particulate matter (the criteria air pollutant PM2.5) were around midnight on New Year’s Eve. There was a significant spike in levels of PM2.5 at midnight compared to early afternoon levels on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. In fact, midnight levels were 10 times higher than the lowest afternoon levels and exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the pollutant. That is when staff decided a video might be a good way to let people know about this problem.
    “These higher levels of pollutants are likely due to fireplace or backyard fires and perhaps even smoke from fireworks,” said Beth Gorman, Senior Program Manager for Pima County Department of Environmental Quality. “People who are sensitive to smoke can experience health effects, if smoke levels are high.” Some of the health effects from breathing wood smoke and smoke from fireworks include: coughing, wheezing, chest pain, headaches, high blood pressure and heart problems.
    The video encourages the community to avoid fireworks and recreational fires. If choosing to have a fire, the video advises that it is best to burn seasoned hard woods that burn hotter and cleaner (see below for additional information on this subject). To further reduce pollution year round, the video suggests taking transit, carpooling, riding bikes and walking can be excellent alternatives to reduce the greatest local source of air pollution: driving motor vehicles.
    Below are some ideas to consider to reduce smoke from fires and fireworks:
    • Instead of shooting off fireworks, enjoy natures clear-skied star show by simply gazing up.
    • Avoid having fireplace or backyard fires, or have smaller fires.
    • If you choose to have wood fires, burn hard woods like oak, mesquite or pecan instead of soft woods like fir or pine. The wood should be split, and “seasoned” for at least six months.
    • Never burn household trash, plastic, plywood, painted or pressure-treated wood.
    • Use smaller pieces of wood. They burn more efficiently and are a better source of heat.
    • Check before you light a fire to see if local air pollution levels are elevated. If they are, avoid lighting a fire, if possible. Get air pollution information at www.pima.gov/deq.
    Remember... If you can smell smoke, you are breathing smoke!