Wood Smoke Stories

Smoke affecting health

Years ago I began noticing intense eye burning and tissue/bone pain at seemingly random times of the year. I thought it was allergies to pollen. Over time, I began to notice the symptoms coincided with the smell of smoke.

Fast forward to 2016, and I’m now a full asthmatic borderline COPD, who has discovered that the upwind neighbors use wood to heat their home and cook their meals. I have four inhalers, prednisone for emergency situations (frequent in the winter), and my quality of life is a cycle driven entirely by the weather. Temperatures drop? Neighbors up their burning to 24/7, and my lungs/eyes/connective tissue begin to suffer. If temperatures stay low for weeks at a time (Jan, Feb, Mar), I sometimes get so buried by the chronic health issues resulting directly from smoke exposure, that secondary infections and complications arise.

I’ve tried moving, and sometimes you get lucky for a while, but wood burning is so prevalent that eventually a new neighbor gets excited about summer fire pits or wood stoves or bonfires. I tried living near the beach only to discover beach fire pits were driving local residents (and myself) to demand restrictions due to incessant smoke inhalation.

Ideally we’d have national laws to help with this, but it’s virtually impossible at this point. Too many people don’t care about the issue because their lungs are still good enough that they don’t notice. It’s not until they get older or develop asthma/COPD that it becomes an issue. With that in mind, we need smoke-free neighborhoods. Some place where asthmatics and those who don’t want to shorten their life from smoke can get together and decide enough is enough: this is a smoke-free safe zone. That would be a start. I’d move there. Finding work might be a challenge, but you have to start somewhere.

…I’m thinking of renting a room in the winter to go stay when the smoke gets bad, and hopefully find a roommate living somewhere that’s tolerable. It’s a sad solution, but it beats prolonged smoke inhalation. Hang in there everyone. We’re living in our own sort of medieval age on this issue.

Outdoor wood boilers in Wales
Winter in Cowichan Valley, British Columbia
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