The Canadian Council of Environment Ministers has planned for 2005 a national ban of the sale of non-certified wood-burning appliances for their weak particle emissions. Specialists and consumers alike have been demanding a ban since 1990. But there is a snag : the ministries’ lawyers discovered too late that the present laws do not give this power to the legislator. << We will propose an amendment to the Protection of the Environment law from now to the end of the year, but it could take four or five years before it comes into effect >> Alain Gosselin, team leader for Atmospheric Stakes for Québec at Environment Canada. << I’m a bit discouraged when I talk about it. >> In 1990, the United States imposed certified EPA 1990 wood stoves and fireplaces, which emit only 2 to 4 grams of particles per hour compared to 30-40 gr. /hr for conventional models. These appliances cost around $300 more but their more complete combustion reduces the amount of wood burned. British Columbia is the only province to do the same, by imposing an equivalent Canadian norm, CSA B415.
In 2000, a committee of experts recommended Environnement Québec follow suit, but changing the law keeps being delayed. << It is always a priority and we will attempt to act more rapidly (than Ottawa) while harmonizing with the Federal, >> says the chief of service of Atmospheric Quality at Environnement Québec, Raynald Brulotte. << We must satisfy the new Canadian standard for fine particles, which will be applicable in 2010>>.
But, for the assistant deputy-minister of the same ministry, this is not a high priority. << This would not have such a conclusive effect on the environment >>, said Pierre Baril in a telephone interview. << The regulatory approach is not always the method which has the most impact. We prefer a combination of education and economic incentives.>> Decision which was denounced by Dr. Louis Drouin, responsible for environmental health at Montréal-Center Public Health Center. << I am surprised and deceived that Québec doesn’t act more rapidly, taking into account that we surpass the Canadian standards for breathable particles in the air about 15% of the time in winter. For us Montrealers, this is a priority.>>
Effects on Health
As well as emitting cancer-causing pollutants in exterior air and often also in homes, according to Environment Canada, residential heating with wood generates half the fine particles coming from human activities, even more than all transport sectors. As they penetrate deeply into the lungs, this invisible dust can provoque asthma attacks, cardiac problems and depress the immune system.
<< We do not encourage combustion with wood and we downright discourage it in urban and suburban centers as houses there are closer together >>, explains Alain Gosselin.
He wishes that people will heat in a more responsible manner, for example by burning only very dry wood. Moreover, he hopes that all elected council officials imitate their American colleagues, who impose casting out old wood-burning stoves when a house is sold, or those of certain cities in British Columbia who forbid use of a non-certified appliance during smoggy winter days.