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Your Toasty Winter Fireplace Is Polluting The Air

You cozy winter fire is dirtying up L.A.'s regularly polluted air. (Photo by Stephen Butler via Flickr)
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Sorry to Grinch up your holidays, but that fire you're using to warm your footsies on a chilly night isn't so great for our air.

Yes, vehicles and manufacturing are the main sources of air pollution in Southern California. But it turns out chimney fires make it even worse.

It's like having mini wildfires burning across the region.

They release what's known as fine particulate matter into the air -- particles small enough to travel deep into your lungs and make it into your bloodstream.

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"Wood smoke is a pretty significant source of air pollution, specifically fine particulate matter or PM 2.5 pollution," said Jo Kay Ghosh, health expert at South Coast Air Quality Management District. "We actually have seen this rise in the fine particulate levels on days when you would expect a lot of people to be burning wood, particularly Christmas day or Christmas Eve."

Short term, people with asthma could see an increased risk of attacks. Long term, high levels of PM 2.5 have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, lung cancer and strokes.


No, of course not.

L.A. regularly has some of the worst air in the entire nation, even without your cozy fire.

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However, the problem is especially pronounced during winter when stagnant air sits over the region and combines all of our sources of pollution into one big Bladerunner-esque mess.

When we're lucky, Santa Ana winds and winter storms can come through, push the pollution out, and improve our air quality for a period of time.

If L.A.'s at risk of exceeding federal air quality standards, the SCAQMD will issue a no-burn alert, which is exactly as it sounds (no fire!).

You can check out if an alert currently applies to your area here. Low-income households and mountain communities get a pass.

Or you could go super millennial (or Norwegian), stream a 4k video of a crackling fire and crank up those space heaters.

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