The problem with wood smoke, said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, is that it contains hundreds of toxic chemicals, almost like cigarette smoke.
Burning also releases lots of fine particulates, he said. Some get stuck in the nose and throat and cause irritation and coughing. But extremely fine particles penetrate into the deepest part of the lungs, Edelman said, causing inflammation that provokes acute breathing problems for those who have asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory diseases.Concerns about wood smoke from recreational burning are similar to workplace complaints about people who wear strong fragrances, he said.
"People have a right not to have their health and well- being impaired by what other people do, especially if what other people are doing is not necessary," Edelman said.
John Seltz, air policy supervisor for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said that it's not necessary for the state to regulate recreational burning, because ambient air quality is generally good. However, he said, that doesn't hold true for someone just downwind of a smoky fire who is getting a heavy dose of pollutants. "In individual nuisance situations, cities will have to try and work them out," Seltz said.Personally, I'm not up in arms about health risks from back yard fire pits. Whatever I'm doing on a daily basis is much worse for me than my neighbor's occasional wood smoke.
[where: Minneapolis, Fire Pits, 55406]