Did you know that Beaconsfield has the second largest number of wood burning appliances among all demerged cities in Montreal? Did you also know that wood burning emits pollutants - small particulates and chemicals - into the air? The ill effects of these particulates are numerous and range from headaches, nausea, dizziness and aggravation of angina in people with cardiac problems, through irritation of the eyes and respiratory system, painful inhalation and coughing, with children, the elderly and people with lung disease being especially vulnerable.

This winter season, in line with The Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs du Quebec, Beaconsfield Council asks homeowners not to burn solid objects (usually wood) on smoggy days, as passed in the August 20, 2012 resolution entitled: Limitation of health and environmental impacts caused by wood burning appliances in periods of smog. Accordingly, the winter of 2012-2013 will act as an orientation and education period, to be followed in summer 2013 by the application of a new by-law prohibiting the combustion of solid objects during smog periods except for those that use this method as their only heating of their main building.

In Quebec air pollution is measured and calculated by numerous air quality monitoring stations, among them Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Dorval and Downtown Montreal. The calculations result in what is known as the Air Quality Index (AQI). When the AQI rises over a certain level, smog alerts are issued. Under stable atmospheric conditions (usually with a temperature inversion – i.e. with warm air aloft) and with little wind – stagnant conditions - pollutants become trapped, increasing their concentration near the earth's surface. Therefore, hand-in-hand with meteorological predictions, air quality cannot only be reported, but also predicted.

In Montreal, smoggy days are more frequent in winter than in summer. On the Island of Montreal in 2010 there were 17 smog days versus 7 summer smog days. Internationally Canada has a good rating for air quality, however within Canada Montreal has the dubious distinction of having the 2nd worst air quality rating, second only to Sarnia Ontario (with its refineries). Much of the sources of smog in summer are transportation and industrial pollution but in winter over 60% of the source can be attributed to wood burning. Therefore, burning wood during smoggy conditions makes an already bad situation worse for sufferers of asthma, emphysema and heart problems.

This winter season before you light your wood fire, please visit www.beaconsfield.ca and click on the smog info tab to find out whether a smog advisory is in effect. In addition, smog advisories usually accompany weather forecasts and are posted on electronic bulletin boards along highways leading to downtown Montreal. Should there be a smog advisory in effect please be mindful of your neighbours and don't make a fire.

In 2009, the Montreal Agglomeration adopted, a by-law regarding solid fuels which prohibits the installation of non-certified devices and consuming any fuel other than wood pellets, gas and propane. A similar by-law is also in effect in Beaconsfield Should you wish to replace your wood burning appliance outright with either a wood pellet, gas or propane model, as many of your fellow Beaconsfielders have already done, contact Feu Vert the woodstove and fireplace changeout program for the island of Montreal at 514 871-VERT (8378) or visit www.feuvert.org to receive up to $900 from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks towards your replacement. By replacing our wood burning fireplaces outright, the aim is to hopefully reduce the overall number of smog days in Montreal and help rid the city of its dubious distinction as second worst air quality city in Canada!

References

Ministère Développement durable, Environnement, Faune et Parcs

Ville de Montréal - Prévision de la qualité de l'air

Environment Canada - Smog Warning

McGill Daily

Ministère Développement durable, Environnement, Faune et Parcs - Wood Heating