Op-Ed: Why Outdoor Wood Furnaces Should be Banned | Nancy Alderman

Jan 10th, 2011 | By | Category: Air pollution, Featured Story

From Nancy Alderman:

Although New York has tried, with their new regulations, to get outdoor wood furnaces (OWFs) under control – even these will not protect people who live in the vicinity of outdoor wood furnaces.  The phase ll units have not gone through actual field testing – and only industry is claiming that they burn 90% cleaner. Environment and Human Health, Inc., (a non profit organization that receives no funding from business or corporations) has monitored the inside air of homes near outdoor wood furnaces and found that homes as far away as 850 feet  have wood smoke levels inside their homes way above the EPA standards.  See http://www.ehhi.org.

So far, only the state of Washington has banned outdoor wood furnaces throughout their state, but  it is now time for other states to follow their model.  If people’s health and property values are to be protected, then a ban must be enacted. While the Farm Bureau fights OWF regulations in every state in order for farmers to save a few thousand dollars on their heating bills –  neighbors are loosing the entire value of their homes and their health as the wood smoke enters and surrounds their homes. Each outdoor wood furnace emits as much smoke as 22 indoor wood stoves.  Outdoor wood furnaces are not certified by EPA –  as are indoor wood stoves.

Regarding New York’s new regulations:

1. New Units (Phase II) will have to be 90% cleaner than the existing OWFs  —- this does not apply to the ones already in existence –  90% cleaner than what?  The old ones are are extremely dirty and polluting and they vary from unit to unit. So 90% cleaner than what?  The industry is saying that the phase II units are 90% cleaner than the old ones.  However, these newer units have never been tested in the field and people who live near them say they are almost as polluting as the old ones.  The technology is still the same and it is still flawed. Peak exposures (exposures of two hours or more) are enough to cause serious health effects.   The “90% cleaner” is based on a 24 hour average — not peak exposures.  Yet  it is the peak exposures (2 hours or more) that cause great harm and this 90% will not bring those peak exposures down to levels that will protect health or people’s ability to sell their homes.

2.  The New Units only need set backs of 100 feet – the smoke from OWFs,  whether new or old,  form in a plume for up to 1,000 feet, and sometimes for 1/2 a mile. Because  OWFs  burn wood incompletely,  the smoke comes out cool and thus falls toward the ground and travels in a plume – not dissipating. 100 feet will in no way protect neighbors.

3. Stack height requirements – it does not matter how high the stack requirements are  because the wood smoke from an OWF  comes out of the stack and falls toward the ground. Therefore the stack height makes little difference.

3. Only good wood can be used –  Even burning the best and driest wood in the world in an OWF will still give off toxic emissions. This is like saying  — when you smoke a cigarette  – be sure to use only good, dry and  clean tobacco — as if that would keep the cigarette smoke from being toxic.   Using dry clean wood still produces toxic smoke.

4. When an agency tries to regulate a product that is harmful —  yet does not lend itself to regulation – the agency often tries to  please both the industry and the public. When this happens, too often the public good is sacrificed.  One cannot regulate asbestos – other than to not allow it.  Asbestos is harmful to people’s lungs. Outdoor wood furnaces are harmful to people’s lungs as well as their property values.  These devices do not lend themselves to regulation. They must be banned until better technologies are found – and they have not been found yet.

Nancy Alderman, President, Environment and Human Health,  Inc.
1191 Ridge Road
North Haven, CT   06473
http://www.ehhi.org

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One Comment to “Op-Ed: Why Outdoor Wood Furnaces Should be Banned | Nancy Alderman”

  1. Mike says:

    Actually, the USEPA states that Phase 2 Hydronic Heaters are 90% cleaner: http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/owhhlist.html. The average annual emissions rate (g/hr) for the Stick Wood Phase 2 hydronic heaters listed on the EPA Burnwise website is 4.5 g/hr.
    The average annual emissions rate (g/hr) for the wood Pellet Phase 2 hydronic heaters listed on the EPA Burnwise website is 1.9 g/hr. 16 of 23 Phase 2 hydronic heaters emit less than Washington’s limit of 4.5 g/hr. Phase 2 hydronic heaters are required to be tested by the same independent test laboratories used by EPA certified woodstoves, the testing information is reviewed and approved by EPA and the the same particulate emission sampling method is used by both hydornic heaters and EPA certified indoor woodstoves – ASTM E2515.

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