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Residents burning wet wood cause air pollution problems in Lane County

LANE COUNTY, Ore. - Air Quality experts are seeing a spike in pollution levels in Lane County after unclean wood burning this winter season.

Pollution levels for Oakridge, Eugene, and Springfield are at the yellow level and could climb to the highest level, red.

"The problem is people are burning a lot of wet, green wood that's not ready to be burned yet, which creates a lot of bigger particulates that are contributing to our air pollution," said Jo Niehaus, public affairs specialist with the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

Particulates are tiny particles from wood smoke that haven't been burned thoroughly. Niehaus said they are the biggest air pollution factor in Lane County.

Air quality officials say particulates can be a health hazard. They can get lodged in people's lungs and bloodstreams when they're inhaled, which could have dangerous long-term health effects.

According to LRAPA, it is possible to burn wood without creating thick smoke.

First, experts say make sure the wood is dry, clean, and seasoned. When in doubt, ask your neighborhood wood burning experts.

"We like to see it at 15 percent moisture or less. We do have a moisture meter here that could be rented if you need to test your wood or if you're concerned that it might not be dry enough. You definitely don't want to burn any garbage," said Rita Legendre, sales associate at Midgleys Stove and Fireplace Center.

Legendre said you know you're burning clean wood when no smoke is coming from your chimney.

LRAPA has air quality forecasters who determine whether or not to trigger a smoke ban.

"They look at everything from the predicted weather to the ventilation temperatures to as well as if people have been burning a lot in the last few days and the particulate count," explained Niehau.

Air stagnation and less ventilation is forecasted for the coming days in Lane County. LRAPA updates their air quality monitors hourly on their website, LRAPA.org.

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