Wood fireplaces and stoves banned in new buildings

In its continuing effort to make breathing easier, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is again clamping down on wood fireplaces and stoves, banning them in all new buildings and requiring more efficient, clean-burning devices where wood fuel is the only source of heat.

The new regulations, approved this week, build on existing rules in an ongoing endeavor to wean residents inside the nine-county air district off polluting wood fires, whether used for heat or ambiance.

The aim of the regulations, first approved in 2008, is to limit emissions of the fine particles in smoke produced by combustion of wood and other solid fuels and wood products, such as pellets. This particulate matter can find its way into a person’s lungs and bloodstream and is linked to greater risk of heart attack, stroke, asthma, respiratory distress and other lung conditions, including cancer, according to the American Lung Association.

“It has a myriad of health impacts, like cigarette smoke,” air district spokeswoman Kristine Roselius said.

And it’s the No. 1 source of air pollution during the winter months, the air district said.

“It’s nasty,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a member of the air district board of directors, which unanimously approved the rule amendments Wednesday. “And it’s a lot more nasty than most people realize.”

An estimated 1.4 million fireplaces and uncertified fireplaces in the Bay Area produce about a third of the particulate matter in the air in the winter, the air district said.

The Bay Area air district takes in most of Sonoma County, including Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sebastopol. It also includes unincorporated parts of Sonoma County roughly bounded on the west by Occidental and on the north by Windsor.

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