Metro Vancouver has restricted open burning of vegetative debris and is encouraging residents to reduce the use of their wood-burning fireplaces, during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Research by the BC Center for Disease Control and others has shown that exposure to air pollution can increase susceptibility to respiratory viral infections like COVID-19 by decreasing immune function. This means deterioration in air quality may lead to more – or more severe – cases of COVID-19 infections.
Smoke emissions from open-air burning of vegetative debris contain fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and other harmful compounds. Metro Vancouver currently authorizes emissions from open-air burning of vegetative debris through site-specific approvals.
Reducing air pollution from combustion sources such as open burning and vehicles will reduce the public’s exposure to air emissions that may make people more susceptible to respiratory ailments. The open burning restrictions remain in effect until June 15, 2020.
Meanwhile, the Metro Vancouver Board has approved a new bylaw to manage residential wood burning. Wood smoke from residential indoor wood burning is the most significant source of PM2.5 emissions in the region, contributing more than a quarter of the total annual PM2.5 emissions, and is also the second top source of toxic air pollutants. Exposure to wood smoke is of particular concern in densely populated urban areas, due to the proximity of a single smoking chimney to multiple neighbours.
Improvements to overall air quality may help to protect the whole population from COVID-19 and its potentially severe effects.