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Cold weather may mean air quality impacts

Jan. 20, 2022

Current weather forecasts are calling for a stretch of several cold days and nights in Island, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. And that means more wood smoke – pollution – in the air.

The Northwest Clean Air Agency urges you to avoid or limit wood burning for home heating unless it is your only heating source. Burning wood for home heating – especially when it isn’t done correctly – can produce smoke pollution that can harm you, your family, and your neighbors. Fine particles in smoke can be inhaled deeply into lungs and damage delicate tissues.

Smoke pollution can also trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Elevated levels of smoke can be especially harmful to children, people with heart and lung problems, and adults age 65 and older.

Air quality may improve throughout the daytime hours, though fog can trap smoke. Smoke levels will build as temperatures drop and more people light fires to heat homes. If you must burn wood for heat, burn small, hot fires. Check your chimney 20 minutes after lighting a fire to ensure that it is not smoking, and if it is, take action. Do not let fires smolder overnight.

Please do your part to protect air quality in your community.

NOTE: NWCAA’s Stage 1 air quality burn ban is continuing until further notice in the Columbia Valley urban growth area in Whatcom County. For more information on that burn ban, see

The Northwest Clean Air Agency is responsible for enforcing federal, state, and local air quality regulations in Island, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. In addition to permitting and regulating industrial sources of air pollution, the agency provides services and information related to asbestos, indoor air quality, outdoor burning, woodstoves, and fireplaces. More information about the agency is available at