Air Quality and Woodstoves: Letter to Comox Council

Dear Mayor and Council,

The Comox Valley Nurses for Health & the Environment and CV Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC are pleased with the decision your Council made to implement a Bylaw restricting the addition of new woodstoves to new construction as well as curtailing their installation in home renovations. We congratulate you on attending to the poor air quality in the Comox Valley that affects the health of so many citizens.

As nurses, we are concerned with the significant health impacts that come with the inhalation of fine particulate matter PM2.5 that has been shown by research to be primarily found as a result of wood burning stoves in the Comox Valley. A 19% increase in risk of heart attacks in seniors over the age of 65 during winter months of woodstove heating is well documented in a 2017 Health Canada study (link below) that looked at 3 BC communities including the Comox Valley. In addition, there are deleterious respiratory effects such as asthma attacks and exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that are more frequent. The cost of one admission to hospital for any of these conditions is significant and is reflected in the ever-increasing costs of healthcare. It is premature babies, young children and our older populations who are most at-risk from the hazards of wood smoke. We have a duty to protect the health of these vulnerable populations.

We are cognizant of the perceived cost saving of using wood for heating, however such an analysis fails to consider the healthcare costs that ensue by not addressing this issue. It is also indeed difficult to detach from the melancholic era of wood burning fireplaces however, our convenience and enjoyment should not supersede the basic health rights of others. Citizens of the Comox Valley are entitled to breathe clean air and to participate in an active lifestyle without feeling confined to their homes.

You have shown great leadership in helping decrease our local air pollution and taken steps towards meeting our climate change targets. Congratulations to Mayor and Council on the implementation of this Bylaw.


Helen Boyd, CV Nurses for Health & the Environment

Betty Tate, CV Chapter of Nurses & Nurse Practitioners of BC

Source: Biomass Burning as a Source of Ambient Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Acute Myocardial Infarction