Cowichan Valley Regional District discourages wood burning, cites higher lung and heart disease rates
The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) is urging residents to keep the valley healthy by not burning yard waste and wood this fall and winter.
With its unique topography, the valley is like a bowl, trapping smoke and fine particulates from backyard burning and woodstoves that can cause health issues, says the regional district.
The problem is more prevalent in the fall and winter months when the venting index is poor, meaning ground winds don’t mix with the higher atmospheric air layers, which would better ventilate the valley from smoke.
"When you combine the fact of our poor venting index with the prevalence of backyard burning and the use of woodstoves, we get poor air quality," said Ilse Sarady, environmental technologist for the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
"Poor air quality, unfortunately, leads to poor health outcomes."
The district hopes people will get the message about burning and help lessen the impacts on everyone’s health, especially those more susceptible to smoke.
"The data from Island Health is showing a higher rate of asthma and other heart and lung diseases compared to other areas," said Sarady. "So for us living in the Cowichan Valley, we really need to pay attention to air pollutants such as smoke from backyard burns and woodstoves."
People living in the Cowichan Valley have higher rates of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma than the rest of Vancouver Island and most of the rest of the province, according to the regional dsitrict.
The air contaminant of greatest concern is PM2.5, which refers to particulate matter that is less than 2.5 microns in diameter. PM2.5 is released into the air when woody debris is burned. The particulate matter is linked to lung and heart diseases, including asthma and heart attacks.
Residents are encouraged to drop off yard waste, free of charge, at CVRD recycling centers. The district also suggests people may want to try "leaving the leaves" on the ground or in garden beds, as leaves provide a place for pollinators and other beneficial garden bugs to overwinter in.
The district offers rebates for heat pumps, which is a clean alternative to heating with wood. You can also find rebates to upgrade old wood-burning stoves to more efficient ones.
The CVRD has plenty of material related to regional air quality on its website, including the daily Southern Island Venting Index and a real-time air quality map of the Cowichan region.
To report an illegal burn, contact CVRD bylaw enforcement by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 250-746-2655.