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Breathe California advises everyone to reduce exposure to wood smoke

Though winter may be that time of the year to get cozy in front of a fire, Breathe California advises the public to refrain from burning wood this season. Like secondhand tobacco smoke, wood smoke is a trigger for those with lung-diseases such as asthma. Even those who have no immediate health impacts can be adversely affected by long term exposure to wood burning by reduction of lung function, chronic bronchitis or even premature death.

In the cold winter months, wood smoke builds up and gets trapped in neighborhood pockets that can linger for hours or even days. The particulate matter in the air can be so fine that it can enter the body through the nose or throat, become lodged in the lungs, and cause health problems.

“As a health care professional with an asthmatic son, I cannot stress enough the danger of wood burning on Spare the Air nights,” states Karen Licavoli, MPH, Vice President of Programs of Breathe California. “By burning wood, you are not only endangering family members but exposing your entire community to potentially harmful smoke that can cause or exacerbate very serious lung issues. I’ve seen on occasions my own son impacted by wood smoke in our neighborhood.”

Breathe California advises those with lung problems to follow these general tips

  • Refrain from burning wood and avoid exposure to wood smoke.
  • Limit outdoor activities in the evening, when wood smoke levels are highest.
  • Remain indoors if possible and keep windows and doors closed from the early evening hours to reduce wood smoke levels indoors.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in the evening, including playing basketball or soccer, heavy manual labor or vigorous running, cycling or hiking.
  • Smoking exacerbates the negative effects of pollution on your lungs. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
  • Finally, if you’re not feeling well, contact your physician or local clinic for medical advice.

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