OLYMPIA – Burn bans in Chelan, Douglas and Kittitas counties expire at 10 a.m. today (Monday, Nov. 29, 2010).
Last week, worsening air quality conditions led the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to issue a Stage 1 burn ban on unnecessary use of uncertified wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces, and on all outdoor burning.
Cold, stagnant air traps pollution, including smoke from burning wood, close to the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.
A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and millions of dollars in health-care costs each year in Washington. (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0902021.pdf)
Air quality is improving enough in the three counties to allow the burn bans to expire. However, conditions could worsen again this week. Ecology urges people who burn wood for heat to limit burning as much as possible to help prevent burn bans from being called.
For news on any future burn bans, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) or www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/burn_ban.htm.
You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It’s very similar to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s national information tool, the Air Quality Index (AQI). Both use color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy. (https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/Default.htm)
The difference is that WAQA shows that air quality is unhealthy earlier, when fewer fine particles are in the air. For more information, see this Ecology focus sheet. (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0802022.pdf)