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Every day, the average person inhales about 20,000 litres of air. Human activities also release substances into the air, many of which are harmful to us as well as to plants and animals. This air pollution comes in the form of both gases and particles. Examples of gases are sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides – mostly from the burning of fossil fuels, and chemical vapours from many of the products we produce. The exhaust from burning fuels in automobiles, homes (including fireplaces), and industries is also a major source of particles. 

Air is also vital for maintaining and transferring heat around the Earth. Human activity produces greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the atmosphere. This excess heat is causing disruptions in many ecosystems and altering the normal patterns of heat movement in the atmosphere. The latter is likely playing a role in much of the severe and erratic weather we have seen in the last several years. 

This section provides information on how to reduce the harmful effects on the air that result from our everyday activities. 

Air quality

Stop your motor

You can help improve our air quality and health, reduce engine wear, and save fuel and money by turning your engine off when parked.
Breathe easier – vehicle emissions contribute to health problems such as asthma and heart disease. 

  • Think about the environment – Idling engines create unnecessary air pollution, which contributes to smog and climate change. 

  • Reduce warm-up idling – in most conditions, start driving your vehicle after no more than 30 seconds of idling. Most cars and trucks are designed to warm up while driving at a moderate speed. 

  • Turn it off after 10 seconds – turn off your engine if you are stopping for more than 10 seconds, except in traffic. Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting your engine. 

Start saving 

  • Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel and create more pollution than turning off the engine and restarting it. 

  • A few seconds of idling are necessary to lubricate engine parts and ensure proper operation, except in cold weather (below – 10 oC). 

  • Idling produces engine deposits, which cause premature wear. 

Changing our habits 

  • Walk your children to school. 

  • Give up your remote car starter. 

  • Walk, bicycle or use public transportation, whenever possible. 

Under By-law BEAC-033 pertaining to nuisance caused by a motor vehicle, unnecessary idling could lead to fines of $50 to $100, for a first offence. 

Wood heating is harmful

Did you know that burning wood emits pollutants - particles and chemicals - into the atmosphere? 

The harmful health effects of these fine particles are numerous and are felt mostly by children, the elderly, and people who suffer from cardiopulmonary disease. 

Wood smoke has been identified by Environment Canada as a source of winter air pollution. Wood burning constitutes a major contributor to winter smog and aggravation of cardiac and respiratory illnesses. 

Statistics and facts on wood heating: 

  • Fine particles are harmful to health because they penetrate deep into the lungs and seep into the bloodstream, affecting the cardiovascular system 

  • It is estimated that a conventional woodstove or fireplace burning for only 9 hours emits as many fine particles as a car does in one year (18,000 km of driving) 

  • Residential wood heating is the main source of fine particles in Quebec, ahead of both transportation and industry; 

  • More than 85,000 homes on the island of Montreal are equipped with a woodstove or fireplace – the majority of which do not comply with current standards. 

Wood smoke has been identified by Environment Canada as a significant source of winter air pollution. Burning wood in a conventional fireplace simply to watch the fire may be pleasant, but is polluting. Inefficient wood stoves and fireplaces can be a fire hazard. Dark or smelly smoke drifting from your chimney means wood is not burning completely. 

If you wish to replace your fireplace or wood-stove: 

  • Gas, pellet and electric devices are excellent ecological choices. 
  • The City of Beaconsfield also allows the replacement of existing wood-burning equipment with wood-burning equipment recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (US Environmental protection Agency, or EPA), provided that the emission rate of the equipment does not exceed 2.5 grams per hour of fine particles in the atmosphere (By-law BEAC-046, article 3.2.5). 

Before burning wood, think about the health of your neighbours: the smoke and harmful particles caused by your wood stove can seep into nearby homes. 

For more information on this topic, visit the Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques website at 

Here are a few tips for responsible wood burning:

Burn clean, dry wood that has been properly split and dried; never burn garbage, plastics, cardboard, styrofoam or any other painted or treated wood, as their combustion releases chemicals into the environment and accumulates creosote;

If your fire is dormant, split it into smaller pieces and use more pieces when reloading; never close the air damper to the point of letting the fire sleep. Wood should burn until it's reduced to charcoal;

As you learn to heat without smoke, check your chimney frequently to make sure no smoke is escaping. If there is smoke, change your fuel or heating method so that no smoke is visible.

For more information, visit the website of the Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs.

Think, smog” before you light your wood burning fire place this winter

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. 

Before burning wood this winter, download the weather app WeatherCAN to find out whether there is an advisory in effect. A Quick Link may also be consulted on the City's website under "Info-Smog". Smog advisories often accompany weather forecasts and are also posted on electronic bulletin boards along highways leading to downtown Montreal. 

If a smog advisory is in effect, please respect section 9.4 of By-law BEAC-033 as well as the health and well-being of your neighbors by not burning wood, failing which you may be subject to a fine. 

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. Almost 90 % of smog episodes were observed during the winter months (December, January, February and March). 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. 

In 2018, the boroughs of the City of Montreal permanently prohibited the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. These regulations do not apply to Beaconsfield. Beaconsfield's Construction By-law BEAC-046 allow the use of an existing wood-burning stove or fireplace if it was installed prior to July 7, 2011. It also allows the replacement of existing equipment provided it meets an "EPA" certified emission rate of less than 2.5 grams per hour of fine particles. The regulation also provides that only natural gas, propane and pellet appliances are allowed in new constructions. A permit is required for any replacement or installation of a stove or fireplace.