Wood Smoke Stories

Asthma in the Bay Area

I’m a mother of three, including one child who has asthma. I also have severe asthma myself. My daughter and I have both had asthma attacks from wood burning.

In the Bay Area of California, most wood burning is done for aesthetic reasons. Our winter ambient particulate matter levels, 39% of which are from burning wood, make it very difficult to exercise or even be outside. Widespread particulate levels commonly reach 100 AQI in the winter, similar to middle to high levels of wildfire smoke.

We must stay inside many days during the winter, and try to plan exercise on clean air days around the whims of when we think people will burn in our neighborhood (we often have to cut walks short). We have to run air purifiers in the same way we do during wildfires.

If laws stopped wood burning, our particulate levels would be much lower and move the Bay Area down on the list of the Lung Association’s dirtiest American areas. We’d also be able to go outside any time we wanted in our neighborhood. Right now, we are not free or healthy. Clean air is a human right!