Friday, November 30, 2012

Cleaner air in Tacoma

Spokane and Tacoma – two of our state's biggest cities – have both struggled at times with air quality, partly because of geography and inversion zones.
The greater Tacoma area is one of 31 places in the nation that's not in compliance with federal limits on air pollution.
Only 30 percent of that problem is caused by auto exhaust. Half of it comes from wood burning.
There's a fancy name for soot -- fine-particulate pollution – but what isn't fancy is what soot does to a human body.
When wood burns and soot goes into the air, the problems start because soot particles are especially tiny. So small that they can skip past the body's defenses and really cause trouble in our lungs and bodies.
Places with too much soot in the air, like Tacoma, have more cases of asthma. It's rough on older people, and patients suffering from any kind of serious heart or lung problem.
Fixing this is important not just for the health of people living in the greater Tacoma area, but for our quality of life and businesses.
So how can we fix this problem?
The News Tribune recently ran a story on how people are working toward a solution.
The new effort got started through a law (House Bill 2326) by Rep. Laurie Jinkins, which passed in 2012.
The tough part about fixing this problem, especially in Tacoma, is the number of older homes where the main source of heat, or the only source, is an old wood stove or fireplace.
There are modern wood stoves that burn cleaner, and there are alternative ways to heat a home that are more efficient. But even then, it's hard to make the switch.
As the story in the News Tribune shows, a solution isn't as simple as passing a law saying people can't use wood stoves anymore. For a lot of people, wood stoves are the only source of heat in their home. Those people are exempt from the law.
Instead of passing a law that simply outlawed wood stoves, Jinkins worked with citizens, community leaders and businesses on finding a way to bring cleaner air to the Tacoma area.
If people have alternative ways to heat their house, they should use them, and this law helps make that transition in the smoothest way possible.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.