Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Air pollution and wood burning: the case of Montreal

The debate in Montreal on whether to use wood-burning stoves or not continues. The fact of the matter is that wood-burning stoves not only contributes to smog alerts in the city, it is hazardous to health and the environment. Forget about the romantic feel of wood burning in the fire; burning wood releases a cocktail of toxins in particular one called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a known carcinogen. In industry, PAH emissions are highly regulated due to their known cancer risk, and therefore environment, health and safety standards are strictly applied. It is easy for governments to regulate a specific point source, such as iron and steel foundaries, but less easy to regulate a whole city and individual citizens. Action is required if the City of Montreal is serious about reducing smog alert days. Industry is taking action and therefore citizens should be doing the same.


  1. Hi Grace - I read this article recently: http://www.cjad.com/news/565/916776 -- the claim that winter smog is caused by asphalt and road salt is a surprise to me and almost seems rediculous, but I have no idea. Any comment on that?

  2. Hi Christopher,
    Some of the main sources of smog are:

    * gasoline and diesel powered vehicles

    * factories and utilities

    * oil-based paints, solvents and cleaners


    * road paving (asphalt) and construction

    * barbecues + gas lamps to heat smokers or people sitting on an outdoor terrace

    * lawnmowers

    * pollutants carried by the wind from pollution sources in the United States

    * coal-fired generating stations