Study Shows Wood Smoke Pollution Levels Vary Widely Within a Neighborhood

Study Shows Wood Smoke Pollution Levels Vary Widely Within a Neighborhood

Proving once again the real estate mantra, “Location, Location, Location,” an important new study raises serious concerns that wood smoke pollution at some residential locations is much higher than previously estimated. Specifically, the study reports huge variations in the exposure levels to wood smoke at different locations within a single neighborhood.

In this well designed field study funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), researchers compared measurements of wood smoke pollution within a one-kilometer area of a small California coastal town. The sampling occurred on 15 nights over two winter seasons. Notably, the town has no significant sources of air pollution, such as traffic or industry, other than residential wood combustion.

The researchers found that there were large variations in wood smoke pollution levels even within this small area. How large? Measurements in some locations were up to 300% higher than the area average.

This means that people living in the same neighborhood are being exposed to radically different levels of hazardous air pollution—and that some unfortunate households are being exposed to much higher air pollution levels than shown by centrally located air monitors.

This study illustrates why central air monitoring, which reports the average particulate pollution at a single location, is not an effective tool for measuring wood smoke pollution.

It also lends urgency to the recent call by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment to ban wood burning in densely populated areas.

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