Editor, The Times:
One common bit of medical advice, given to those suffering from pulmonary distress is to clean up indoor sources of air pollution. It’s standard, textbook advice for those looking for relief. But, what’s a doctor going to say in a place like Clearwater ? What can a doctor say when the outdoor air pollution from slash burning has diffused fine particles to every corner of the valley ? “Quit breathing “?
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the single biggest human health risk and outdoor air pollution accounts for 3.7 million deaths annually.
In the US, the EPA ranks wood smoke right up with other industrial sources of pollution, like emissions from coal or diesel. At work are fine particulates known as P 2.5, as well as several toxic gas emissions.
Wood smoke is shown to be a cause of numerous symptoms and diseases; heart attacks, strokes, athsma, irritation of the airways, coughing, and so on.
Fine-particle pollution, always part of wood burning, is especially damaging to children, seniors and people with other lung conditions.
There’s no escaping ambient, outdoor wood smoke pollution. An American paper on wood smoke says that the toxic gases and fine particles in wood smoke can penetrate into homes, even when the windows and doors are closed.
Client Earth is a legal non-profit that has been at the heart of asserting the Right to Breathe Clean Air at the United Nations and in the European Union.
As a result of its actions, the right to clean air has been enshrined in European Union Law and the regulations are trickling down to all levels of government.
Client Earth claims that “At the heart of the problem is a lack of political will, a symptom of a legal and political order which puts private profit before public health.”
Slash burning, a barbaric practice of BC’s forest industry puts us all at risk. When numerous fires burn at low elevations, in a deep North-South valley such as exists in Clearwater, the smoke never gets out of the valley, it simply gets captured below the inversion layers and, then, it then disperses horizontally to increase the concentration of toxic material everywhere.
But, there is no such thing as air quality monitoring, in Clearwater, so quantifying the concentrations of the pollutants is impossible.
After going through BC Government websites, calling the numbers and emailing those concerned, I can only conclude that the BC Department of the Environment would be better called “The BC Agency for Polluter Protection.”
Have a look for yourself. All possible control rests in the hands of they who do the burning. There are no protections for the public.
Since hard data from atmospheric monitoring is non-existent, would an increase in lung-related visits to our medical community tell us something?
Could a medical team examine young school-aged children to spot abnormal frequencies of pulmonary distress ? Do people care enough to demand this ?
After all, the presistent argument in favour of inaction is that “this is the way things have always been done.”