Every year around this time the pollution of the air increases in most of the areas of L.A. including Encino, San Fernando Valley, Sherman Oaks and the surrounding neighborhoods. In order to improve the general understanding of how to reduce the pollution of the air that occurs every winter in L.A, the SCAQMD started an initiative Check Before You Burn. This is supposed to reduce wood smoke from residential wood burning. The movement consists of three parts:
- A regulation governing wood burning
- An education component to inform residents of healthier alternatives to wood burning
- An action item for residents to sign up for Air Alerts to be aware when no-burn days are called
Why do we need the Check Before You Burn initiative?
The South Coast Air Basin presently has some of the highest levels of fine particulate pollution in the United States. Public health and air pollution concerns led to the adoption of Rule 445 and other elements of the Check Before You Burn program.
The Southland’s estimated 1.2 million wood-burning devices are significant sources of air pollution. They emit an average of 5 tons of particulate matter per day. During the winter, when wood burning is at its peak, wood burning is estimated to cause more than 10 tons per day of particulate matter emissions — equal to nearly seven times the amount of daily primary particulate matter emitted from all of the power plants in the Southland.
Additionally, wood burning in fireplaces can pollute indoor air with fine particulates and toxic air pollutants.
Wood Burning Days Regulations
There are regulations which apply to when you can burn or not burn wood set by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) which includes the San Fernando Valley, Encino, Sherman Oaks, the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, Orange County, and the Inland Empire. The restrictions are put into effect between November 1 and the end of February if the next day’s air quality is predicted to have elevated levels of particulates (PM 2.5), and prohibit the burning of wood or manufactured fire logs in your fireplace(s) during the specified time, generally midnight to midnight.
There are certain exceptions that apply to the rule and homes that fall under these categories can burn wood no matter the restrictions:
- Mountain communities above 3,000 feet in elevation
- The Coachella Valley
- The High Desert
- Homes that rely on wood as a sole source of heat
- Low-income households
- Homes without natural gas service.
How Does The Pollution Affect My Health?
Many scientific studies have linked PM2.5 particle pollution to a variety of health risks, including increased chances of:
- Irritated eyes, nose, and throat
- Reduced lung function
- Increased lung inflammation, difficulty breathing, bronchitis
- Asthma exacerbation or attacks
- Aggravated heart disease or heart attacks
- Premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
Older adults, young children, pregnant women, and people with heart diseases or lung diseases (such as asthma) may be especially sensitive to these health risks.
What Are My Alternatives?
Clean-burning gas or alcohol fuel log sets installed directly into an existing fireplace, can also give the same warmth and feel of a traditional fireplace, but emit less pollution and are better for your health. SCAQMD has a gas log incentive program that offers residents a discount on new gas log sets purchased for installation in open hearth fireplaces. Read more about SCAQMD’s gas log incentive program.
If you’d like more information on the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles, or to have help looking for your next home, please feel free to reach out! I’m happy to help, no obligation.