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Wood-burning ovens in Montréal - Questions and Answers

Cuisson au bois - Questions/réponses

Questions and Answers

Questions and answers to better understand the issue of wood-burning ovens in Montréal. 

Read Cuisson au bois, the public health department’s report published Tuesday, July 9. 

Q: How does wood burning contribute to air pollution?
A: Wood burning emits a complex mix of pollutants in the form of gas and particles. According to the City of Montréal, almost all poor air quality days recorded over the past few years have been due to high concentrations of fine particles in the air.

Q: How much do wood-burning ovens contribute to air pollution in Montréal?
A: Overall, according to the City of Montréal’s 2014 report on air quality, 3 per cent of fine-particle emissions in Montréal air come from commercial wood-burning stoves.  

Q: What does this mean for the health of Montrealers?
A: Although the number is low, this doesn’t mean there is little impact on the health of Montrealers. We need to look at the overall picture. The amount of pollution inhaled has a significant impact on health. Wood-burning businesses are often located in densely populated neighbourhoods. As a result, a large proportion of Montrealers are exposed to those pollutants. The high number of vulnerable people who are exposed must also be considered. The harmful health effects should be taken into account for the entire population. 

Q: Are some areas of Montréal more affected than others?
A: The impacts can be felt more locally than throughout the island; for example: in densely populated neighbourhoods where there is a cluster of word-burning business.  Public health’s study looks at the downtown area and Plateau Mont-Royal. 

Q: What are the impacts on the health of Montrealers
A: Although wood-burning ovens are not the greatest source of pollution, their impact is significant. Fine particles are non-threshold contaminants, that is, there is no safe level of exposure. Fine particles are known to have acute health impacts. Many studies have shown that exposure to these contaminants, whether short- or long-term, can cause a number of health problems including lung cancer, heart diseases, and respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD. 

Q: Are there solutions for wood-burning ovens?
A: While emissions from businesses that burn wood represent a small proportion of global emissions across Montréal, they have a significant negative impact on local air quality. The use of filters could be an effective solution to reduce fine-particle emissions. 

Q: How is air quality in Montréal, overall? Is it improving or getting worse?  
A: Overall, air quality in Montréal is improving, but very slowly. Montréal’s public health department is always looking to reduce citizens’ exposure to air pollution, regardless of the source: wood-burning, transportation, industries, etc.. 

Public health recommendation

Public health is calling on the City of Montréal to ensure that wood-burning businesses respect current regulations, or to adopt a new by-law aimed at this sector that would safeguard the health and safety of Montrealers.

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Last Update : 25 January 2020