For the second consecutive day, heightened levels of air pollution has prompted the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to call a Winter Spare the Air Alert for Wednesday.
District officials cite a cold, still weather pattern that is over the Bay Area as the reason for the alert. During this type of weather, cool air close to the ground is trapped by a layer of warmer air above. When there is no wind, wood smoke and other pollution trapped under this lid of warm air can build up rapidly to unhealthy levels throughout the region.
During a Winter Spare the Air Alert, it is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to use their fireplaces, woodstoves and inserts, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits, or any other wood-burning devices.
Wood smoke is the largest source of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area, according to district officials. In the winter, wood smoke from the 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves in the Bay Area contributes about one-third of the harmful particulate pollution in the air.
Exposure to wood smoke -- like cigarette smoke -- has been linked to serious respiratory illnesses and even increased risk of heart attacks. Breathing fine particles or soot accounts for more than 90 percent of premature deaths related to air pollution.
The ban is in effect in Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, southern Sonoma and southwestern Solano counties. An exemption is available for residents and businesses that burn wood as their sole source of heat and have no other permanently installed heating source.
The Winter Spare the Air season runs from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28. There are several ways that people can check to see if it’s okay to burn wood during the season. The daily burn status can be found:
- On the Air District Web sites: www.baaqmd.gov or www.sparetheair.org
- Via the toll-free hotline 1-877-4-NO-BURN (complaints can also be filed via the hotline)
- By signing up for Air Alerts at www.sparetheair.org or by signing up for phone alerts at 1-800-430-1515.
- People also can file a wood smoke complaint online.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (www.baaqmd.gov) is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area. For more information about Spare the Air, visit www.sparetheair.org.
-- The Bay Area Air Quality Management District contributed to this report