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Be Considerate of Others When You Burn Outdoors

PHOTO: The American Lung Association in Wisconsin reminds people to follow all local laws and regulations regarding open burning to keep Wisconsin's air clean. (Photo by T.J. Morrissey)
PHOTO: The American Lung Association in Wisconsin reminds people to follow all local laws and regulations regarding open burning to keep Wisconsin's air clean. (Photo by T.J. Morrissey)
April 23, 2014

BROOKFIELD, Wis. - With spring comes an increase in open burning, with bonfires, campfires and burning yard waste.

Dona Wininsky, director of public policy and communications for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, acknowledged that woodburning is a Wisconsin tradition, "but there are right and wrong ways to do it.

"If you're going to burn outside, make sure you follow your local law regarding permits and the conditions for burning," she said. "Open burning should only be done on a day when there's little to no wind. That way, the smoke doesn't blow into your neighbor's home or onto an adjoining property."

Open burning creates particle pollution, which can cause serious health problems such as asthma attacks, shortness of breath and even heart attacks.

"A simple definition of particle pollution is tiny little microscopic bits of dust, soot and ash," she said. "That type of pollution can get into the air when you do a lot of open burning, and it can linger in the air, causing health hazards, especially to people with lung conditions."

Wininsky said garbage, plastic, rubber, asphalt and treated wood are especially toxic when burned because they can contain so many harmful chemicals and additives. Many Wisconsin counties already have particle-pollution levels that exceed federal safe standards, and open burning only contributes to the problem.

Many rural Wisconsinites choose to use firewood to heat their homes.

"If you do heat your home with wood, make sure you're using an EPA-certified stove or furnace," Wininsky said. "If it's not, we would encourage you to replace it with an approved model or with an appliance that uses a cleaner fuel. That can include wood pellets, natural gas or propane."

The American Lung Association's Wood Stove Exchange Program offers generous rebates to replace old, inefficient appliances with cleaner, Environmental Protection Agency-certified models. To find out if you qualify, check at lungwi.org/woodstove.

Learn more about clean-burning practices at epa.gov/burnwise.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI