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Air Quality Fact

The Air District is authorized to regulate stationary sources of air emissions in the Bay Area, but mobile sources – such as cars, trucks, trains and construction equipment – actually contribute most of the air pollution in the region.

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Wood Burning Rule Information

Upcoming Public Workshops on Proposed Amendments to Regulation 6, Rule 3

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to almost seven million residents and an estimated 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves. Wood smoke from these devices is the #1 source of wintertime air pollution. In 2008, the Air District adopted Regulation 6, Rule 3 to protect Bay Area residents from the harmful health impacts of wood smoke.

While the Regulation has been effective in reducing fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) since its adoption, wood smoke remains a significant health problem in the Bay Area. In an effort to protect public health and achieve a healthy air quality standard, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) is amending Regulation 6, Rule 3: Wood Burning Devices.

The Air District will conduct a series of nine public workshops to review and discuss the proposed amendments and is seeking your comments and input to further reduce the harmful emissions that come from wood smoke. Please refer to the flyer for information on the date and time of the workshop in your county and the Regulation 6-3 Proposals for additional information on proposed amendments to Regulation 6, Rule 3:

Workshop Flyer. The workshop flyer is also available in Chinese and Spanish. The Regulation 6, Rule 3 workshop in San Francisco will be webcast; the webcast agenda is available. Questions and comments may be submitted via email during the webcast.

Regulation 6-3 Proposals

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

Workshop Presentation

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

English Factsheet

Spanish Factsheet 


Last Updated: 4/30/2015