Wood Burning Rule Information
Regulation 6, Rule 3: Wood-Burning Devices
The Air District's Wood Burning Rule:
- Restricts wood burning when air quality is unhealthy and a Winter Spare the Air Alert is issued
- Places limits on excessive smoke (exceeding 20-percent opacity)
- Requires that only cleaner-burning EPA-certified stoves and inserts be sold in the Bay Area
- Requires only cleaner-burning EPA-certified stoves and inserts in new construction or remodels
- Prohibits the burning of garbage and other harmful materials
- Requires labeling on firewood and solid fuels sold within the Bay Area.
Exemption Guidance Document for the Wood Burning Rule
Fact Sheet - Winter Spare the Air
Wood Smoke FAQs
Woodsmoke Pollution and Health Effects
To learn more about the wood smoke pollution and the associated health effects, please visit these websites.
Health Effects Basics
Washington State Health Effects of Woodsmoke
Research on Health Effects
California Air Resources Board PM Mortality Research
Pyramid of Health Effects and Pertinent Health Studies
Wood Smoke Basics
EPA Woodstove Basics
Burn Wise Tips (in English and Spanish)
Wood Stove Dirty Secrets Brochure
Check before you burn
- Call 1-877-4NO BURN
- Sign up for email air alerts
- Check local radio, TV or newspapers
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to almost seven million residents and an estimated 1.2 million fireplaces and wood stoves. Wood smoke air pollution from these devices can be a significant air pollution and public health problem during the winter.
Wood Smoke is 80 - 90% Fine Particulate matter
Wood smoke air pollution comes from the burning of wood both indoors (fireplaces, woodstove and other wood burning devices) and outdoors recreational firepits, Wood smoke contains approximately 80 -90 % fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) measuring 2.5 microns in size (one millionth of a meter or 1/70th of a human hair).
Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Associated with Serious Health Effects
Fine particles can easily bypass the natural filters in the nose and throat an penetrate deep into the lungs. Health studies have linked long-term exposure to PM with serious health effects such as
- Decreased lung function
- Aggravated asthma
- Nose and throat irritation
- Chronic bronchitis
- Lung damage
- Irregular heart beat
- Premature death in people with lung and heart disease
People with heart or lung disease such as congestive heart failure, angina, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, emphysema or asthma may experience health effects earlier and at lower levels than healthy people. Older adults are more likely to be affected because they are more likely to have chronic heart or lung diseases than younger people. Children are most susceptible because their respiratory systems are still developing, they breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults and they are more likely to be playing outdoors.
Highest Fine Particulate Matter Air Pollution Occurs During the Winter
During the months of November through February, cold weather inversions can put a "lid" over the Bay Area allowing fine particulate matter levels to rise and cause serious health problems. Chemical analysis of filters from air monitoring instruments indicate that winter-time woodsmoke is a significant source of fine particulate matter on cold winter days. The picture below shows a comparison of a filter cartridge from an air monitoring station on a good air quality day (on the left) with a filter cartridge on a cold winter day with high PM levels (on the right).
Why a Wood Smoke Regulation?
In order to protect public health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lowered the air quality standard for fine PM to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The Air District is required to establish regulations to meet the EPA standard and reduce fine PM in order to protect public health. Residential woodburning represents the largest primary source of PM 2.5 during winter months, contributing approximately 33% of fine PM on cold winter days. Similar rules have been successfully implemented in other areas throughout California and the nation resulting in significant improvements to air quality.
What you can do to help
Wood smoke is the biggest source of air pollution that individuals have the greatest power to control. Here are 10 things you can do to reduce wood smoke pollution:
- Give your fireplace or wood stove the night off.
- Replace your fireplace or wood stove with a clean burning natural gas device.
- Insulate your house to keep warmth in.
- Save energy and reduce pollution by wearing a sweater on chilly nights.
- Switch to an EPA-certified wood burning device or pellet stove, which emit up to 70% less PM.
- Burn clean, hotter fires with plenty of air, in order to prevent visible smoke from a chimney or flue; smoke which indicates poor combustion so adjust dampers or fuel accordingly.
- Never burn, painted wood, treated wood, particle board, plastics, wrapping paper or other garbage; burning them releases toxic chemicals.
- Burn only dry hardwood fuel such as oak or cherry, which produces less smoke and burns hotter; never burn wet wood.
- Store wood in a dry or covered area, off the ground to keep it from getting wet.
- Keep your fireplace and stove well maintained to improve air flow and reduce emissions.
To learn more about wood smoke pollution and what you can do, please visit these websites:
Wood Smoke Basics
Spare the Air Tonight Advisories
Home Heating Financial Assistance Programs