Planet Princeton

No More Fires in Princeton? Princeton Mayor to Press for Banning Wood-burning Fireplaces

FireplaceAt a private press brief briefing on March 28,  Mayor Liz Lempert revealed plans to push for a ban on wood-burning fireplaces in Princeton.

Lempert said “wood smoke has many of the same chemicals as cigarette smoke and that inhaling it may be even more dangerous than inhaling tobacco smoke”.  She cited an EPA study showing that on high pollution days, breathing wood smoke particles is equivalent to smoking four to sixteen cigarettes.

Lempert said the first step would be for the Public Health Commission to study the issue.  She  noted that in addition to the heath issues, wood burning fireplaces also pose a real fire risk.

“Because of the Avalon disaster,” said Lempert, “I have been thinking a lot about fires and what we can do as a community to protect us all from fires that get started because someone was careless.”

“The best protection,” said Lempert, “is to just say no to fires.”

Councilwoman Heather Howard, the liaison to the Health Commission and a tireless  advocate for the tougher regulation of cigarette smokers, said she supported the idea.

“We recognize that people like fireplaces, especially in these cold winters,” Howard said, “but people like cigarettes too and we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if  we allowed a dangerous activity to continue just because people like it.”

It is not clear whether the Mayor’s initiative has firm support on Council.

Councilman Patrick Simon, reached by email, said the Mayor had not “mentioned it” to him. “I would have to learn more before forming an opinion,”  he wrote.

Council members Butler and Miller could not be reached for comment. Councilman Liverman thanked everyone for their hard work.

Councilwoman Crumiller said she “would need to hear more” but noted she “would willingly give up her fireplace if that would be in the public interest.”

A newly formed group “Citizens for a Breathable Princeton,” formed by Sam Bunting as an offshoot of Walkable Princeton supports the ban.

“We should not have to breathe wood smoke pollution coming out of chimneys anymore than we should have to breathe tobacco smoke in public parks,” said Bunting.

Bunting also noted that  the fireplace ban “would spread the pain of responsible environmental stewardship to middle and upper income groups who tend to have one or more fireplaces and burn up trees with casual indifference to the health costs for their neighbors.”

April Fools. This joke story was sent in by a Planet Princeton reader.

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21 comments

  • Wow. That’s quite a response. I guess you didn’t roast many marshmallows as a youth.

  • It is all a matter of dose, degree and location. One candle in a room can obviously produce more particulate than China, if you are in that room. One wood stove can produce more particulate than thousands of candles or hundreds of smokers. One mill stack can produce more particulate than hundreds of fireplaces. Attitude is important and all particulate deserves respect. And if someone cares about the small things like unnecessary candles, they will care about unnecessary smoke from wood stoves.

  • You can not compare candles to the huge impact wood burning has on human health

  • My dad died recently (cause: COPD from years of exposure to smoke)
    So you think that is a joke too?

  • Too bad the government doesn’t have the power to stop people from doing anything the majority (or an elite well-educated minority) wants them to.

    No one would drink or smoke too much, eat bad food in excess, fart too loudly, say bad things or hopefully, think bad thoughts.

    What a wonderful word if we could prevent our neighbors from doing anything we didn’t want them to do.

  • Why not, who needs candles? … some romantic fools that can’t get it any other way?

  • You are ignorant of the body of evidence that supports complete prohibition. Burning wood is the stupidest thing society does. It is hugely polluting and completely unnecessary. It is divisive in the community. Ask people who have been forced out of their homes by woodsmoke pollution. Ask people whose family members have died from diseases that are directly caused by woodsmoke exposure. A minority of wood burning fools should not fuck up air quality for the rest of us. It is selfish and stupid.

  • Sorry, the point of sensible public policy is not to eliminate everything with risk. There is a reason for living — and includes the joy of activities like burning logs in the fireplace. Humor and laughing is another reason.

  • The April Fools writer has dementia brought on by too much wood smoke….and thinks it somehow funny…. APRIL FOOLS…. funny?

  • What a shame this is an Apr fools joke because only jokers burn in Residential areas

  • Why don’t you find out why people are actually saying it would be good policy to ban woodburners? You can’t stay ignorant forever.

  • If they were banned it would make Princeton better. The death and disease and nuisance that woodsmoke causes is no laughing matter. Why not joke about asbestosis and other fatal diseases. Particulate pollution kills 30,000 in the US annually. A sensible public policy would be to ban all solid fuel burning in all residential neighborhoods.

  • Air pollution, from sources including residential wood burning, is a serious health and environmental issue, and it’s something that ultimately hurts us all. Rather than joke about it, we actually all need to do something to help stop it.

  • Was believing this because, in fact, some communities have banned traditional fireplaces for just that reason. Are candles next?

  • Idiotic government overreach by Democrats and unenforceable. We will ignore it if passed. Of all the important issues in the world today, our idiotic Democrats have chosen this nonsense. Unbelieveable.

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