Woodstove Warning, Food Consumption, Green Investments and More Bits and Pieces

News from the field: Growing green industries, the boom in bottled water and the state of your state.

| October/November 1991

Woodstove Warning and Safety

As winter approaches, many of us depend on woodstoves and fireplaces to heat our homes. While these heating systems can provide warmth as well as atmosphere, they may also be responsible for producing something less appealing — indoor and outdoor air pollution.

According to the American Lung Association, smoke from these heaters contains carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and other organic compounds that can cause respiratory illness or aggravate existing conditions such as bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. Improper burning of wood also causes outdoor air pollution. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that woodstoves and fireplaces emit more carbon monoxide than all U.S. industries combined.

The good news is that recent efforts by the EPA to tighten regulations on woodstoves and fireplace inserts have helped to make newer versions cleaner and more energy efficient.

For those of us still battling with age-old heating systems, the EPA suggests the following precautions to ensure a cleaner and more complete burning of fuel, as well as a healthier environment:

  • Use only wood that has been split and dried for over six months.
  • Avoid smoldering, low-temperature fires — the greatest polluters.
  • Never overload the firebox. This ensures that air circulates freely.
  • Never burn garbage, trash or treated wood since each can emit poisonous fumes.
  • Above all, watch for signals such as smoke escaping from the woodstove chimney or lazy flames in the firebox. These are sure signs that more air is needed for efficient burning.

Battle Between Congress and EPA Regulations

Is Congress allowing the EPA to do its job? Washington University law professor Richard Lazarus doesn't think so. Lazarus, who has written a 20-year history of the agency, says that although he supports the notion that Congress should be a watchdog of the federal government, it has in extreme cases "virtually paralyzed" the EPA. His views are detailed in an article published in the Journal of Law and Contemporary Problems.

In his article, Lazarus argues that the intense and negative quality of congressional oversight of the EPA has resulted in the perception that its officials are incompetent, negligent "and even corrupt. In isolated instances, such a public image may well have been justified. In many others, however, it plainly was not."

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