Each year, with the advent of summer, many of us find the need to open windows and turn on fans as we try to stay cool. Summer is also the time when many of our city’s residents engage in the recreational burning of wood in their backyards. It is frequently done with little or no consideration as to where the smoke travels and without regard to their neighbors’ right to breathe clean, fresh air.

Having been assaulted by smoke coming into our home countless times in the past few years, I believe it is time for Portland to consider a ban on the practice. The recreational outdoor burning of wood poses a serious threat to the environment and to the health and welfare of Portland’s residents.

Wood smoke exacerbates the symptoms of respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia. Particulate matter pollution from wood smoke harms healthy people as well, especially children, increasing asthma rates.

Wood smoke contains the same carcinogenic chemicals as cigarette smoke, including benzene, dioxin, formaldehyde, lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. And, because wood smoke also contains carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxides, it is a major contributor to global warming.

Portland has done a great job in addressing the hazardous effects of second-hand cigarette smoke. With the increasing popularity of backyard fire pits, the time has come for all of us to acknowledge the real dangers of burning wood and take action on a clean air issue we can control. Recreational wood burning does not belong in an urban area.

“Portland. Yes. Life’s good here” – when the air is clean!

Mike Angelone


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