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Take Back the Air
 From Wood Smoke

Wood smoke is not just a nuisance; it is a severe health hazard

Please don't burn wood



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About Take Back the Air:

This website is designed to provide basic information on how to press for wood smoke reduction with public officials and others who need to better understand the hazards of wood smoke.

We are also involved with an online newsletter, "The Wood Smoke Activist
Network", which publishes monthly articles to help fight wood smoke pollution at the grassroots to government levels. To subscribe to the newsletter, email: s.brandie@hotmail.com

With skyrocketing asthma rates, and with asthma as the number one reason for school absenteeism, we recognize that cities have "accessibility requirements" that require the removal of all barriers to the use of public spaces for people with disabilities, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To persons with asthma and other breathing or cardiac disorders, wood smoke presents an actual physical barrier that prevents increasing numbers of people, especially those with asthma, from attending public events and using public spaces such as city parks, streets and sidewalks.

Minneapolis initiative:  Take Back the Air is Minneapolis-based, though we are connected with many people concerned with wood smoke reduction efforts across the country and in Canada. If you contact us at info@takebacktheair.com, we will try and connect you with others in your area “for a larger voice”. We will support your efforts and you can consider us a resource for the latest wood smoke information. 

Since 2001 we have tried to convince Minneapolis elected officials that wood smoke is the second tobacco smoke and that citizens deserve relief from its caustic fumes on our own properties and in public spaces.  We need larger numbers of people to come forward and strengthen our pleas for cleaner air through wood smoke reduction.

We would love to hear from people in Minnesota and other states, and work together towards clearing the air for the sake of public health.  We believe it is as important to free public spaces of wood smoke as it was to establish smoking bans in indoor establishments and in some parks.

Facts about wood smoke:
Wood smoke is the second tobacco smoke. It is especially hazardous to breathe because it contains many of the same cancer-causing and hormone disrupting chemicals that are also in tobacco smoke. These include lead, mercury, arsenic, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, benzene, toluene, formaldehyde and dioxins, to name a few.
. Wood smoke increasingly infiltrates both private and public spaces, such as parks, streets and sidewalks, depriving many people of the basic right to breathe clean air, even on their own properties.

.  It is a major source of black carbon soot fine particulates that are so miniscule that they cannot be adequately filtered or contained.
.  Wood Smoke's toxic chemicals are "bioaccumulative", which means that they build up and do not break down in the environment or in our    lungs. They are left to do damage over time in our bodies and to new generations through our water, soil, crops, fish, fowl and our entire food chain.

  The science on wood smoke is clear: There is no safe level of it, according to the American Lung Association, the US Surgeon General, the US Centers for Disease Control and most state health departments.
.  The higher the particle pollution level in neighborhoods and cities, the higher the premature death rates in the general population; and this increase is reflected even at low levels of pollution (Dr. Joel Schwartz, the Harvard School of Public Health).

.  The Harvard School of Public Health also studied 5 major American cities during a 3-month experimental ban on wood burning. During that period they found that hospital death rate from respiratory increase in heart attacks went down dramatically. The Minneapolis metro area was found to be the number one city most at risk for premature deaths compared to the other 4 in the study.
. Before smoking bans prohibited smoking in bars and restaurants, people at least had a choice to not patronize smoking establishments. But no one has that choice now, even on our own properties. We are forced to breathe wood smoke in all seasons from back yard fire pits, indoor chimneys, wood-burning restaurants and from travelling "smokers" and wood-burning grills at public events.

.  Residential recreational wood burning and restaurant wood burning are major sources of toxic black carbon soot in neighborhoods where high concentrations of people live in close proximity.
. Public bonfires have become the norm for many public, athletic and school events. Smoke from outdoor recreational wood burning has increased exponentially since the indoor smoking bans, corresponding with the high asthma rates and absenteeism in our city schools. This could be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), see Legal Considerations and Remedies.
.  There is currently no place or agency that anyone can turn to for relief from wood smoke. We hope you will join our efforts toward cleaner air in our communities. Our lives and that of our loved ones may depend on banding together for a "larger voice".

. The science on wood smoke is clear. There is no safe level of wood smoke. It is a well-documented public health hazard, according to the MN Department of Health, US Centers of Disease Control, the EPA, the American Lung Association and many others.

.  Residential recreational wood burning and restaurant wood burning are major sources of toxic black carbon soot in neighborhoods where high concentrations of people live.

. Wood smoke can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death in people of all ages. Children and unborn children are among the most vulnerable along with the elderly or anyone with asthma, cardiac conditions or other lung or breathing problems. These groups comprise a significant portion of our population.

.  London has banned wood, solid fuel and coal burning since 1957 when about 4,500 people died in a high-particulate smog event, called the 'London Smog Incident'.


Here is a flyer you can edit and distribute:

Wood smoke: A severe public health hazard


Know the facts: Wood smoke…  

  • Is a major source of black carbon soot (fine particles that are bundled with cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting chemicals).

  • Violates the property rights of others to enjoy their property smoke-free.
  • Contains a host of the same toxins that are in tobacco smoke. These include lead, arsenic, mercury, carbon monoxide and dioxins, "some of the most insidious chemicals known to man." (Dr. Joel Schwartz, Harvard School of Public Health).
  • Is implicated in asthma attacks and heart attacks.
  • Is implicated in premature death in people of all ages.
  • Is implicated in reproductive birth defects and childhood illnesses such as asthma, cancers, ADD, autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and other neurological disorders.
  • Violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it presents a "barrier" to those with disabilities like asthma, preventing them from accessing public spaces. City bike paths, streets, sidewalks, parks, sports, activities in the parks, and public gatherings are often inaccessible due to wood smoke.
  • Is implicated in global warming by interfering with the seeding of rain in clouds. (NASA Space Center, www.burningissues.org/car-www/science/Climate/index.html). Soot also accelerates the melting of glaciers, www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/20/black-carbon-emissions.
  • Is an increasing fire hazard.

For more information, contact info@takebacktheair.com

 This flyer can be edited to use for parks anywhere.


Health effects from wood smoke exposure:

  • Asthma, asthma attacks
  • Pneumonia and bronchitis, chronic or acute
  • Colds and sore throats- by irritating mucous membranes which can lead to pneumonia, etc.
  • Heart disease and heart attacks
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)-by attacking myelin sheath
  • Cancers
  • COPD and COPD exacerbations
  • Premature death in people of all ages, including those without known health problems
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Reproductive and other birth defects, particularly genital defects in babies
  • Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) (ADHD)
  • Other neurological disorders including migraines, hyperactivity and drowsiness
  •  Infertility, reproductive problems
  • Migraines, and other miscellaneous allergies


Property Rights

Accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

  • Wood smoke presents a 'physical barrier' that may prevent some people with disabilities such as asthma or heart disease from accessing public spaces.
  • Cities have accessibility requirements under the ADA Guidelines that require cities to remove all barriers to the use and access of public spaces for people with disabilities. It is the law.

Global warming; Climate change

Wood smoke's black carbon soot is increasingly implicated in climate change/global warming:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120112142232.htm

Wood smoke is a major source of fine particulate carbon soot emissions which pollute clouds and interferes with the seeding of rain.www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/12/soot-methane-reduction-global-warming_n_1202440.html www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/28/black-carbon-emissions

The United Nations (UN) urges wood smoke reduction.www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?newsid=31952&cr=unep@crl

Links to wood smoke articles

Links to wood smoke videos

The EPA continues to encourage state, local, tribal, and consumer efforts to change out (replace) older heaters with newer, cleaner, more efficient wood heaters and wood stoves.  But they do not suggest change-outs to natural gas, the cleanest, most energy efficient alternative. Here is a good video of the damage to the air from outdoor wood boilers (OWBs).  This should help convince authorities of the realities of wood smoke.  https://www.youtube.com/user/GoReps

Local action needed

·       Visit Edina, Minnesota’s Wood Smoke Blog  City of Edina

 to make complaints about wood smoke.  While this blog was initiated in 2011, it is time to revive the issue in this pro-burning community.  Edina did convert 2 of 3 wood burning fireplaces in the city-owned Centrum building at Centennial Lakes Park to gas. But Edina City Council members voted to not convert the outdoor wood burning fireplace.  This is inconsistent with the smoking ban in the park.  And wood smoke there presents a physical barrier to people with breathing disabilities and to those who prefer true clean air.

·       Request that the Edina City Council either limit outdoor wood burning hours considerably or ban wood burning altogether, since cleaner alternative such as natural gas are more sustainable and readily available.  One email can be sent, with a request to forward to all Council Members to: edinamail@ci.edina.mn.us or call 952-826-1600 and voice suggestions or complaints.

·       Request that the outdoor fireplace at the Centrum Building be converted to gas

·       Request that Edina stop giving out wood burning permits to restaurants—for new restaurants or conversions. (The 50th and France area is very smoky, as is the Galleria, because of many wood burning restaurants)

·       The good news is that Tavern on France converted their wood burning outdoor fireplace to gas.

·       Contact info@takebacktheair.com to connect with others wanting wood smoke reduction in Edina.



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Takebacktheair.com is intended to give you the facts, latest news, and opinions about the effects of wood smoke and how it affects the lives of so many.  Takebacktheair.com simply gives you, the reader, information so that you can make sound judgments with the information provided.