I returned home from my early evening walk to see the front page Associated Press article on the long-term health effects of smoke exposure from the increasingly devastating wildfires that have plagued the west, and, once again, Australia (“As Wildfires Get Worse, Smoke Spreads, Stokes Health Worries”; Friday, January 10, 2020). As usual this time of year, I returned home from my walk coughing, with irritated eyes and throat, my clothes and hair reeking of woodsmoke from the numerous home fireplaces burning in my Sunset Park neighborhood. Sure, who doesn’t love a cozy fire, but after suffering through one of the worst wildfire seasons in the history of California, it’s perplexing as to why we continue to choose to burn wood at home when it’s clear that woodsmoke contributes to greenhouse gases, further warming our already suffering planet. According to the EPA, particle pollution from wood smoke contains several toxic harmful air pollutants including benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Particulate matter emitted by woodsmoke can trigger heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure, can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory illnesses for those both indoors and outdoors, and contributes to our already poor air quality. Please, neighbors, for the sake of your own health, that of your family and your neighbors, and for the planet, please consider cleaner means of staying warm.


Anna Okonek

Santa Monica

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