Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Smoking Out Cozy Conformists

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the roar of a crackling fireplace pouring forth generous warmth as much as the next person, but not at the expense of the planet!

I wish I was exaggerating when I say on brisk, crisp nights walking the dog, I’m choking on thick clouds of acrid smoke. 

Neighborhood fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are churning out a veritable fog of so-called fine particles!

Most people of decent intelligence, including cozy fireplace and wood stove owners, seem to recognize the urgency of reducing emissions that are not only harmful to the planet, but harmful to our health. Yet, within the confines of their homes, they’re seemingly oblivious to the reality they’re pumping out pollution!

Older models of fireplaces and wood stoves typically emit 10 to 20 grams of fine particles every hour. These particles, which penetrate deep into the lungs, contribute to 900 premature deaths in Montreal every year. 


Transportation, responsible for 45 per cent of the fine particles released into the Montreal atmosphere, is the main source of this dangerous pollution. The approximately 85 thousand fireplaces and wood-burning stoves on Montreal island are second, responsible for 39 per cent of the fine particles in the air.

By October 2018, fireplaces and wood stoves on Montreal island will have to prove they release no more than 2.5 grams of fine particles per hour.

In the US, the standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency is 4.5 grams per hour. The Montreal city committee that drew up the regulations was pushing for a limit of 1.3 grams per hour.
Enjoying the fresh winter air
The limit being enforced in Montreal is better than nothing.

Modifications to existing fireplaces and wood stoves will whack the wallet to the tune of between $2,000 and $8,000. That’s pretty expensive! Fines for using illegal stoves and fireplaces can go as high as $2,000.

Stoves that don’t meet the required limit cannot be used, unless, stipulate the regulations, the power has been out for more than three hours. Last Thursday, on what thankfully was a mild winter day, we were without power for 12 hours. A heat-generating fireplace or wood stove would be a welcome treat when Hydro Quebec falls flat.

I don’t own a fireplace or wood-burning stove but, if I did, I would certainly hope it conformed to standards deemed reasonable for the health of the planet and humans.

I long to breathe fresh, cold air on night walks again and our poor beasts will no longer wonder nervously why I’m salivating when I smell their fur.

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