This guest post was written by Julie Mellum, Founder of Take Back the Air.
When Joe Camel ads pitched cigarettes to children, parents and health officials rebelled and put a stop to it. But who will stop children from breathing secondhand wood smoke? It is everywhere these days. Compared to tobacco smoke, it is far more concentrated and far more pervasive. And it contains legions of the same deadly toxins, such as lead, arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde, and other cancer-causing chemicals, that remain in the body up to 40 hours longer. Though wood smoke stresses everyone’s immune system, children are among the most vulnerable.
Wood smoke’s asphyxiating presence is readily detectable in most cities nation-wide, in all seasons and at all times of day. Its caustic fumes enter our lungs and all major body systems in less than one minute, forcing us all to “smoke” without our permission. With smaller and still developing lungs, it is no coincidence that asthma in children is skyrocketing out of control.
With wood smoke’s army of toxicants ever on the march, how can we “kick the burning habit?” We must stop recreational burning and switch indoor and outdoor fireplaces to gas or electric. Moratoriums should be placed on any new wood burning permits in restaurants. We must educate neighbors, teachers, politicians and decision-makers so that this top polluter be recognized and recognized for what it is. Many west coast cities are running frequent newspaper articles on the dangers of wood smoke inhalation. We must demand that recreational burning be regulated and nuisance ordinances upheld, so that children and others can breathe free in public spaces and in their own yards.
Moms and grandmothers must roll up our sleeves and not wait another day to stop our children from breathing toxic air in all its forms.
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