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does wood smoke from backyard fire pits bother you too?

Has anyone else in this online community had a problem with wood smoke from fire pits in your neighborhood? Besides staying inside all the time, what was your solution, if any?
 

I used to really love sitting around a fire, but in my older years I  have developed chronic asthma & allergies, and wood smoke really irritates my throat and lungs. The particulate gets in my lungs, the result is a scratchy throat and a cough that lasts for days, in addition to aggravated asthma.Unfortunately, it seems that every other backyard in our town has a fire pit now.

The smoke from these fire pits can't be making my breathing issues any better. (I have never smoked by the way, but grew up at a time when everyone else seemed to be smoking, everywhere, all the time!)
Am I right to believe that burning wood (and leaves) is especially irritating for allergy-related asthma? (I have a sensitivity to leafing trees, too)
 
Remember when folks used to burn leaves in the fall? In NJ, that was regulated because it was polluting the air.
 
Maybe there should be some regulation of fire pits in cities and towns, too ….it's basically air pollution, especially when people burn the wrong kind of wood, or chemically treated, or wet wood.
 

I know they're fun to have, but ….help!

For one neighbor with a fire pit, I broached the subject and the woman of the house was quite dismissive saying, "oh, maybe your asthma will get better."
(No it won't get better, that's what CHRONIC means, is what I wanted to say! (And she says she's a nurse!! You'd think a nurse would know about asthma.)
 

Any suggestions?

thanks for reading this.

Susan

 
 
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Comments 16

  • Cindi Doren

    Yes, ended up getting pneumonia, for 6 weeks, try to stay away from them, but sometimes the heat feels really good

  • Shea

    I can't be around them either since having asthma   And I know other people don't understand… It is frustrating. Even my family still invites me to bon fires and I am like nooooooooooo. (I think they believe me after last 4th of July's fireworks set me off bad and my dad had to rush me to my house so I could do a breathing treatment because a rescue inhaler wouldn't cut it.) Trying to explain it to neighbors would be tough. But I do like the sound of "regulating" like you said they did in NJ… Do you know who was in charge of regulating there and how they did it? 

    In the meantime, the only thing I know for smoke are those N99 masks… If you are going on a walk and someone is bon-firing nearby, you could have one handy. If you are on a patio and the neighbors have one, that is tough–maybe a big portabke fan blowing the smoke away from you would help? Those are my only ideas. 

  • LK

    Hi Susan!  I know the feeling!  Yes, wood smoke really bothers me, too.  Smoke from leaf and grass fires, well basically any smoke aggravates my asthma.  We live in a large lot/rural area and people are still allowed to burn leaves.  Usually they do it just in the fall. 

    Our next door neighbor burns leaves, fallen branches, etc. in his side yard nearest us fairly often.  He is in the hardwood flooring business and years ago he used to burn the old carpet and the padding he had pulled out of houses!!!    One day I told him that all the particles of the old carpets and foam padding was going up in the air!!  You could actually see some of it, so I knew there were particles you couldn't see.  He said something like 'It's like an incinerator.'    I said 'No, it doesn't get nearly as hot as an incinerator and it is not good to be breathing all that.'    He acted like I didn't know what I was talking about.  Thankfully as far as I can tell since then he has just burned leaves and fallen tree limbs. 

    I do wear masks like Shea mentioned above and I think they help.  For me, I have to take a shower and wash my hair when I come in since the smoke smell is still on my clothes and hair.  Strong odors are one of my triggers, as well.

    Does your neighborhood have a home owners' association?  Do they have any rules that govern burning?  If not, maybe they would listen to your concerns?  I would bet there are silent others who are in the same situation as you.

  • K8sMom2002

    Welcome, Susan! I'm like you … fires used to never bother me, but now they do. While fire pits don't tend to be as aggravating to my asthma as cigarette smoke or perfume, it's still a trigger.

    It also depends on the day's weather. Certain weather patterns can hold the smoke down and keep it in an area. 

    I like the suggestions that others have given you. 

    Could you … 

    • Stay upwind of the bonfire? It doesn't always work, because wind can shift, but if you find yourself near a fire (or cigarette or pipe smoke or anything that floats on the air), get upwind. The air current will carry most of it away from you. I've done this when I've found myself at a gathering where all of a sudden someone decides a bonfire is a great idea. 
    • Check with your local city and county government? Many cities do regulate fires because of air quality. They can regulate when people burn things — leaves, trash, open firepits — based on the day's air quality.
    • Check with your local forestry agency or commission? If you live in a rural area with no regulations from the city or the county, fires may still be regulated by your forestry agency. Many times during high wind and dry conditions, fires are not permitted. You can find contact information about your forestry agency here on the .
    • See what the day's overall air quality is in your area before agreeing to go to a bonfire? You can check out , the EPA's website that shows current air quality conditions daily. That will tell you when the air is bad anyway and a bonfire might make things even worse. 
  • Susan V.
    LK posted:

    Hi Susan!  I know the feeling!  Yes, wood smoke really bothers me, too.  Smoke from leaf and grass fires, well basically any smoke aggravates my asthma.  We live in a large lot/rural area and people are still allowed to burn leaves.  Usually they do it just in the fall. 

    Our next door neighbor burns leaves, fallen branches, etc. in his side yard nearest us fairly often.  He is in the hardwood flooring business and years ago he used to burn the old carpet and the padding he had pulled out of houses!!!    One day I told him that all the particles of the old carpets and foam padding was going up in the air!!  You could actually see some of it, so I knew there were particles you couldn't see.  He said something like 'It's like an incinerator.'    I said 'No, it doesn't get nearly as hot as an incinerator and it is not good to be breathing all that.'    He acted like I didn't know what I was talking about.  Thankfully as far as I can tell since then he has just burned leaves and fallen tree limbs. 

    I do wear masks like Shea mentioned above and I think they help.  For me, I have to take a shower and wash my hair when I come in since the smoke smell is still on my clothes and hair.  Strong odors are one of my triggers, as well.

    Does your neighborhood have a home owners' association?  Do they have any rules that govern burning?  If not, maybe they would listen to your concerns?  I would bet there are silent others who are in the same situation as you.

    OMG LK, that's terrible! flooring and carpeting is the worst ….my heart goes out to you. It's a shame folks burn their grass, leaves etc in the fall, the time of year I like to be outside most.

    Good suggestions about the mask (and thanks to Shea too), and showering and looking into a community organization. It's a small city (yes, it really is a city) so I think I will first approach our Friendly Mayor

    thanks! susan

  • Susan V.
    Shea posted:

    I can't be around them either since having asthma   And I know other people don't understand… It is frustrating. Even my family still invites me to bon fires and I am like nooooooooooo. (I think they believe me after last 4th of July's fireworks set me off bad and my dad had to rush me to my house so I could do a breathing treatment because a rescue inhaler wouldn't cut it.) Trying to explain it to neighbors would be tough. But I do like the sound of "regulating" like you said they did in NJ… Do you know who was in charge of regulating there and how they did it? 

    In the meantime, the only thing I know for smoke are those N99 masks… If you are going on a walk and someone is bon-firing nearby, you could have one handy. If you are on a patio and the neighbors have one, that is tough–maybe a big portabke fan blowing the smoke away from you would help? Those are my only ideas. 

    Thanks Shea, good to connect with someone who understands! your suggestions are great, and I will look into an N99 mask. Several people have also suggested putting up a big fan to blow the smoke away.

    I have not encountered this with my family, but I can imagine if I broached the subject, the family bully would laugh at me, blame the fact that I have asthma on me.

    Family, huh?

     

    thanks again

    Susan

  • Susan V.
    K8sMom2002 posted:

    Welcome, Susan! I'm like you … fires used to never bother me, but now they do. While fire pits don't tend to be as aggravating to my asthma as cigarette smoke or perfume, it's still a trigger.

    It also depends on the day's weather. Certain weather patterns can hold the smoke down and keep it in an area. 

    I like the suggestions that others have given you. 

    Could you … 

    • Stay upwind of the bonfire? It doesn't always work, because wind can shift, but if you find yourself near a fire (or cigarette or pipe smoke or anything that floats on the air), get upwind. The air current will carry most of it away from you. I've done this when I've found myself at a gathering where all of a sudden someone decides a bonfire is a great idea. 
    • Check with your local city and county government? Many cities do regulate fires because of air quality. They can regulate when people burn things — leaves, trash, open firepits — based on the day's air quality.
    • Check with your local forestry agency or commission? If you live in a rural area with no regulations from the city or the county, fires may still be regulated by your forestry agency. Many times during high wind and dry conditions, fires are not permitted. You can find contact information about your forestry agency here on the .
    • See what the day's overall air quality is in your area before agreeing to go to a bonfire? You can check out , the EPA's website that shows current air quality conditions daily. That will tell you when the air is bad anyway and a bonfire might make things even worse. 

    excellent suggestions, thank you very much!

     

    Susan

  • Shea

    Yes Susan… Family and neighbors can totally make you believe you are over-reacting and everything is in your head, and that asthma is your fault, (which is all wrong and doesnt help anyone)– no one gets to where they are alone, and, often times, getting out of a situation requires others to make changes as well as onesself). The truth is ignoring symptoms, being ignorant about triggers, and being unable to avoid poor air quality/lung irritants/allergens is more likely the reasons people develop asthma, and asthma is a growing problem. There are so many stats, like this one from the CDC:  The number of people with asthmacontinues to grow. One in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8% of thepopulation) had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14 (about 20 million, or 7%) in 2001. More than half (53%) of people with asthma had anasthma attack in 2008. More children (57%) than adults (51%) had an attack.May 3, 2011

    It is understandable that neighbors have needs and ways they were taught to deal with things. But, we have trash pickup these days, so they could bag the leaves and throw them out instead of burning them.

    There could be community rules in place too, like you can only burn certain things in certain sized fires within certain distances from others during certain times.

    I think your idea to talk to the mayor is great, and you could write a letter/email to follow-up as well. 

    I haven't done much community involvement yet, but I have gotten doctor's notes and allergy action plans that I have shown to family and have made progress with them over the years. 

    And yes, know that you are not alone in this and all of your effort (even posts on hete) helps others too!!!  

  • K8sMom2002

    Hugs, Susan, on family not being supportive. It's really hard when those who should protect us the most and see what asthma can do not fully understand.

    We do understand … lots of us have had to educate our families and advocate for ourselves.

    One thing that has helped me is to "win over" the influence maker in the family. 

    Is there one person in your family that the rest defers to? You know, the one where Mom says, "No, we can't have Thanksgiving on that day, because so-and-so can't be there?" or Dad says, "Gee, I'd better ask such-and-such?"

    If you win over THAT person, they can help you win over everyone else. I know it helped me when we were dealing with my daughter's new food allergy diagnosis. 

    In the meantime, here's a judgment free zone where you get  and people never say that asthma is your fault. 

  • MMKB

    Hi Susan,

    Yes, smoke from a campfire, fireplace, gas grill, charcoal grill and any other type of smoke causes an instant asthma attack for me. As an adult, I have spent several days in ICU because a neighbor had a campfire !!! Where I grew up they allowed open burning and during the fall leaf burning season the smoke was horrendous. My doctor finally told me if I wanted to live I better move. Luckily I had graduated from college and searched for a local city that didn't allow open burning. I'm very disappointed to say my "safe" city is now allowing backyard campfires now that the portable above ground fire pits have become so popular  ! Right now it is not possible for me to move !

    You should also be cautious when you are driving in your vehicle by someone having a campfire or burning a fireplace. I have had several asthma attacks from campfire or fireplace smoke coming in my vehicle air vents. I try to use the recirculating feature to help eliminate some of the smoke. However, some vehicle cabin air filters are better than others. Also some vehicles do not have vehicle cabin air filters, which is crazy! I always have my mask with me. Sometimes I drive with it on and other times I have it ready to put on. When I am traveling with my family, we are always looking for signs of smoke coming from chimney's and etc. 

    I would recommend calling your city, speaking with your neighbors, avoiding any type of smoke and purchasing a mask. After the campfire incident with my neighbor that sent me to ICU, she was very apologetic and she started warning me ahead of time if she was going to have a campfire. If your family attends a campfire, you should ask your family to shower before they come near you. They should place their smoke filled clothes in the washing machine and start it. 

     

  • K8sMom2002

    Hugs, MMKB — that sounds like a really horrid experience to have to go through. 

    Good reminder about driving! We tend to keep the air on the recirculating setting because DD is so allergic to grass pollen and we have a much longer growing season for grass around here.

    But our new car has a weird quirk that drives me bonkers.

    It has an "auto" setting where you can set the temperature and it will treat it like a home thermostat. But when you first set it to that, it turns on the "fresh air" setting, pulling air from outside. That means I have to remember to switch it. 

    I also remind our service dealer to check the cabin filter — they usually do, but I try to remind them to check it in case they forget.

  • Pljohns

    Yes-that is the exact reason I can't visit my parents in the winter-they heat solely with a wood stove.  They have central heat, but for whatever reason,. my Dad won't turn it on.  they can certainly afford it and there is a problem with where the thermostat is located-it's right behind the fireplace so it gets good and warm and then the heat doesn't turn on so the rest of the house is freezing cold!  Dad could move it easily but he uses that for an excuse not to turn it on.  Anyway, that's exactly why I can't visit them in the winter.  Wood smoke gets to me every time-no matter if it's inside wood stove, outside fire pit or what-I just can't be around it.

    Good reminder about the cabin filter too-I just had mine changed-they check it every time they change the oil.  My car get annoying too-you can put the air to recirculate but then it automatically changes to fresh air after a while.  I've had the car 4 years and still haven't figured out when or why it does it but it drives me nuts.

  • Susan V.
    Pljohns posted:

    Yes-that is the exact reason I can't visit my parents in the winter-they heat solely with a wood stove.  They have central heat, but for whatever reason,. my Dad won't turn it on.  they can certainly afford it and there is a problem with where the thermostat is located-it's right behind the fireplace so it gets good and warm and then the heat doesn't turn on so the rest of the house is freezing cold!  Dad could move it easily but he uses that for an excuse not to turn it on.  Anyway, that's exactly why I can't visit them in the winter.  Wood smoke gets to me every time-no matter if it's inside wood stove, outside fire pit or what-I just can't be around it.

    Good reminder about the cabin filter too-I just had mine changed-they check it every time they change the oil.  My car get annoying too-you can put the air to recirculate but then it automatically changes to fresh air after a while.  I've had the car 4 years and still haven't figured out when or why it does it but it drives me nuts.

    Oh, that's a shame, and older parents can be a little dense. So, the rest of the house is freezing cold. Brilliant. Meanwhile, you can't breathe.

    I had never thought about the cabin filter in the car: thanks for raising my awareness about that. I am sure it gets dirty just driving in traffic, esp here in NJ where it's wall-to-wall cars and trucks.

    I spoke to my neighbor again, and she actually admitted that she is sensitive to wood smoke, but they promised their son (who lives in an apartment in NYC) that they'd have a "campfire" for him when he visited them "in the country." So, it won't be often.

    thanks for the support, and good luck with your parents!

     

     

     

  • K8sMom2002

    Susan, I'm glad it's just a temporary thing — that makes it a bit easier to bear. Do you think she'd be open to giving you a heads-up the next time they're doing a "campfire" type of event?

  • K8sMom2002

    Susan, have you had any more issues with your neighbors and fire pits? 

    Summer is definitely here, along with grilling out and yard cleaning, so I'm seeing more and more curls of smoke on the horizon. 

    In the summer, I can at least stay well upwind if I'm at a family function that has a big fire pit going. But in the winter, it's harder, because I'm cold-natured, and like @Cindi Doren pointed out, the heat feels good. The smoke in my lungs? Not so good!

  • Melissa G

    For the last several years I had a terrible time around camp fires. It was my allergies, not my asthma. My eyes would water and swell and I would just sneeze and couldn't stop. I changed my antihistamine and this year I haven't had nearly as many problems.