fire.jpgThe stockings may be hung by the mantle with care, but hold off on that blazing yule log–air quality officials are asking residents to voluntarily refrain from wood burning this weekend to prevent the need for a Spare the Air alert.

Although the weather forecast for the Bay Area this weekend isn’t calling for conditions that could trap smoke near the ground and result in unhealthy breathing conditions, the air district is making a pre-emptive strike in its request.

“This is the time of year [when] many residents choose to burn wood in their fireplaces, but this creates unhealthy air both inside and outside the home,” Bay Area Air Quality Management District Executive Officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement.

“We are asking residents to give the gift of clean air to their families and cut back on wood burning.”

If air quality is predicted to be unhealthy over the weekend, the alert would be issued by 2 p.m. the day before the alert goes into effect, the district said.

When inhaled, wood smoke passes through the lungs and into the blood stream. It can decrease lung function, irritate airways, aggravate asthma and chronic bronchitis, and increase the severity of other respiratory illnesses, according to one health official from Kaiser Permanente.

Wood smoke is the largest source of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area, according to the air district. It contains harmful pollutants, such as soot and carbon monoxide, and toxins such as dioxin, which has been linked to increased cancer rates in adults.

About one-third of the harmful soot in the winter air can be attributed to wood smoke from the 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves in the Bay Area, according to the district.

Residents must check the daily burn status–which can be found online at–before burning wood during the Winter Spare the Air season, which began Nov. 1 and runs through Feb. 28.

The air district is the regional agency chartered with protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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