Posted December 18, 2014 By Frank Peters

Fun for your eyes, bad for your lungs

Fun for the eyes,
bad for your lungs

Newport Police just announced another night of fireworks to coincide with the end of the annual Boat Parade.

This is a new development, bookending the beloved Boat Parade with fireworks, so it’s a little Scrooge-like to raise issues of air quality.

But wintertime fireworks are a hazard. The AQMD declares occasional No Burn Days during winter months because of inversions. The weather patterns of winter mean that woodsmoke, soot and fireworks debris stay close the the ground where it affects nearby residents.

Fireworks are already an air quality nightmare, even on the Fourth of July when winds blow the remnants away. Smoke from fireworks, according to the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology,

Puts us all at risk from breathing in tiny, harmful fine particles made up of soot, dust, metals, and unburned fuel

Promoters of the Boat Parade either aren’t aware of the hazards or discount the serious health effects:

  • Risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Lung inflammation.
  • Reduced lung function.
  • Asthma-like symptoms.
  • Asthma attacks.

All made worse by the wintertime inversion.

Like the beach bonfires, these fireworks displays are another example of someone’s fun at the expense of a neighbor’s health.

Instead, let’s enjoy happy and healthy holiday events.

No more fireworks, please.




Posted December 18, 2014 By Frank Peters

Sacramento has placed in the Top 10 for the worst air quality in the nation; see how woodsmoke contributes to the related adverse health affects.




Posted November 22, 2014 By Barbara Peters
The AQMD's air monitors at Big Corona Beach

On the roof: the AQMD’s air quality monitors at Big Corona Beach

You don’t have to travel far from Newport Beach to find people focused on the future of air quality — we travelled to AQMD Headquarters yesterday where we saw a glimpse of monitoring’s exciting future.

Neither Los Angeles nor Orange County meet regulated thresholds for ozone and particulate matter, and that’s a challenge, but it’s only a part of the driving forces at work with emerging technology that some see as a game-changer.

New technology will empower individuals and increase public awareness like never before.

Gathering long term air quality data — these monitors look expensive

Gathering long term air quality data — these monitors are expensive

Picture a future when we’ll make decisions based on personal air quality monitoring.

  • Parents could choose schools based on air quality.
  • People might decide where to live by checking their personal air toxics sensor.
  • Athletes could avoid areas with bad local toxics
  • Politicians would have nowhere to hide when it comes to air quality concerns
  • Take the family out for a wood-fired pizza? Maybe not if the sensor picks up wood smoke air toxics.


What if you could wear an air quality monitor? Or strap one to your bike?

Meet TZOA, a wearable monitor currently funding on Kickstarter

The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association recently brought together regional air quality regulators, public health experts, university researchers, EPA environmental experts, data gurus, and business and community members to look at next generation air quality measuring. Their seminar, “My Air Quality: Using Sensors to Know What’s in Your Air,” attracted a crowd.

HabitatMap’s Michael Heimbinder presented his company’s mapping tools for environmental tracking

With all that energy in the room, who wouldn’t believe we’re on the verge of a new age of air quality awareness. Are you breathing Air Toxics (particulate matter, benzene and lead) or Climate Forcers (carbon dioxide, methane, black carbon)? Just ask your personal air quality sensor.


What if your smart phone was also an air quality monitor?

Sensor technology that can measure what you’re breathing is exploding. Will Google Glass have an influence? The marketplace is eagerly responding to a need to know what’s in the air. Air Quality agencies now offer an impressive collaboration to guide the public’s understanding of reliability, data interpretation, and best use of new technology.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is leading the way with a new Sensor Testing Center, AQ–SPEC. Someday soon you may be able to borrow an air quality sensor from their lending library of personal monitoring equipment. They plan to test emerging technology and assist consumers with choosing sensors and interpreting data.

Back in Newport Beach a few foolish politicians still believe they can dismiss air quality concerns from beach bonfires. They don’t realize the future will be leaving them behind — it’s inevitable. Kids in elementary school will have an app. Parents in Huntington Beach will realize that their kids are breathing air toxics at the public beach. Athletes will demand smoke-free air. Breathers will be empowered.

Welcome to the dawn of a new age of air quality awareness.




Posted September 20, 2014 By Frank Peters

Must be a forest fire

Must be a forest fire

Some places have cleaner air than others

Some places have cleaner air than others

I’ve got a new favorite app — Smoggy.

Like a weather app, you add cities to track their Air Quality Index.

Why do I enjoy knowing these statistics?

I fantasize about living somewhere with clean air. Smoggy shows how my favorite places are doing each day.

Conditions vary widely in some places and not at all in others.

I emailed Welikesmall‘s Paul Solomon with my wish-list:

I wish Smoggy had an interactive feature. If you tracked Portland, OR, for example, you’d wonder why their meter seems stuck on 50. I’d make needling comments to everyone else who follows PDX and the next thing ya know, we’re affecting change.

California's always well represented on this list

California’s always well represented on this list

Paul didn’t make any promises, but he did hint about a next release. Turns out, besides his interests in clean air, he’s also a big bicycle rider; something else we have in common.

- — — -

I often check Smoggy late at night, after a long day burning fossil fuels — that’s when I find the highest ratings. There’s a list of Worst Cities in the U.S. and a list of Best Cities, too, but that list varies widely most days.

Bottom line? As many of us already know, there’s almost nowhere on earth where you can find clean air.






Posted August 28, 2014 By Frank Peters

Thinking of a roaring beach bonfire as a way to celebrate the holiday weekend?

Think again. Wood smoke is bad for you, bad for your kids, and bad for your aging parents, too. But don’t take my word for it…

Dr. Brian Moench, M.D., of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment gives an overview of the health and environmental hazards of wood smoke pollution. Follow UPHE on Facebook.

What to watch next? How about The Secret Life of Soot?




Posted August 11, 2014 By Frank Peters

Oh, Oregon! Where’s your air quality awareness?!

Summer in Oregon — it’s a favorite vacation destination, but I wouldn’t want to return during the cooler fall and winter months.

Why not?

There’s too much recreational wood burning.

We visited Portland and even though the urban core is mostly modern high rise, only blocks away we saw lots of wood piles.

After the thrills of the city we escaped to beautiful Bend. A Saturday morning eBike ride took us along the Deschutes River then looped through the Historic District. Bend’s stately old homes look lovely and because the whole point of this visit is to gauge the suitability of relocating for retirement; it’s easy to picture living in this gorgeous city.

Except for all the soot-stained chimneys, Bend would be a top choice. One retirement article puts Bend in the top 3, with Tucson and Austin when it comes to the best locales for seniors, but moving here would be worse than living at the beach fire pits. Our neighbors here in Sunriver were burning wood this morning — only 100 ft away — compelling us to close all our doors and windows. A cynic might say, it feels just like home!

Ironically, our Oregon friends pride themselves on their environmental awareness. When we inquire, “What’s the water quality like here in Bend?” We hear how environmentally focused Oregonians are, but they’ve got a huge blind-spot in their self-congratulatory environmental awareness — no one’s paying much attention to the air they breathe.

It’ll take a long time I’m guessing, before our neighbors to the north get serious about clean air as well as water.





Posted July 6, 2014 By Barbara Peters
Wall to wall pop-ups

Fire Pit City: Wall to wall pop-ups with a lot more cooking

Density? Check. Intensity? Check.


It’s how the Coastal Commission measures access.

It’s the peak of the summer scene and for months now, people have been burning charcoal instead of wood in the 27 fire rings here at Big Corona.

Apart from the ever-growing density and intensity of traffic, there’s no less beach access.

Charcoal turns out to be a much cleaner fuel, up to 90% lower particulate matter emissions than seasoned wood. If one wood burning beach fire is equivalent to the secondhand smoke of 800 cigarettes, that must mean charcoal is only as bad as 80.

So why does Coastal continue to endorse wood burning?


Turns out they think cleaner fuels might reduce the density and intensity of use of beach fire rings. At recent Senate Hearings, Coastal even suggested Newport Beach should spread out the fire rings on the beach to allow maximum wood burning under Rule 444.

So you be the judge — do you see any lack of density? How about intensity? How do they measure that? These folks all seem to be having an intensely good time.

How about spreading fire rings out? Who should have to move their blankets or umbrellas to make room for wood burning? And where could they move them? Parking revenues are up and the parking lot is full.

Seems to me that clean air is one of the best “low-cost visitor-serving opportunities” we could offer.

Density and intensity seem to be taking care of themselves.


Some say charcoal-only burning deters beachgoers — not this weekend!

A super beach day!

Who’s more vulnerable to wood smoke? Kids




Posted July 5, 2014 By Frank Peters
The day after the fireworks shows

July 5th — Unhealthy readings the day after the fireworks shows

It wasn’t advertised, because I was looking — how close to home were any fireworks shows gonna be?

Too close it turned out and although we had a great view of the colorful glow, to see the huge clouds of smoke sent a chill. Now today the whole westside is suffering — we call it July 4th, but it’s the aftermath on the 5th when air quality in the basin is often the worst of the year.


I just got back from a bike ride through Crystal Cove State Park; now I see how unhealthy the air is, the air I was gulping.

This afternoon instead of a lot of outdoor exercising I’ll be catching up on my favorite TV shows…

When you live under the dome you better think twice about what you burn...

When you live under the dome you better think twice about what you burn…
But we all live under a dome




Posted June 28, 2014 By Frank Peters


Did they spell my name right?

That’s often what I look for first — are we named in the article?

If so, we’ll likely be reviled somewhere in the comments. This news cycle has been a little more aggressive; Facebook comments aren’t discouraging people from saying some pretty nasty stuff. What do people mean when they say,

It would be easier to get rid of the Peters…

The Daily Pilot called the Fire Rings the 2013 Issue of the Year and the Top Story to Watch in 2014, so you can count on them chiming in with an update on the Senate’s latest action this week.

This week’s Orange County Register story is well balanced, but attracts more vitriol. Probably because everyone in Newport Beach is a little tired of the subject, the Daily Pilot got one nutty comment, a few more in Corona del Mar Today, where the focus has been more on the outrageous costs of protecting fellow residents by providing charcoal to beachgoers who didn’t know that wood burning is on hold — apparently the City spending $2,000 per month is too much for some.

Meanwhile, life at the beach is great. The summer crowds have arrived in force. Volleyballers grunt and cheer, babies cry, girls shout — it’s an all-day soundtrack of fun at the beach. Best of all, the nighttime fire pits burn as brightly as ever, without poisoning the nearby residents. It’s a win-win solution, not without some glitches, so it’s gonna get harder to keep writing about how charcoal ruins the experience — eventually everyone’s gonna get used to it…




Posted June 24, 2014 By Frank Peters


Another trip to Sacramento, another Committee hearing, another vote against clean air.

Today’s good news is that, although Travis Allen’s AB 1102 Fire Rings bill moves forward, it’s been amended so extensively, there’s no comparison to where it started. Newport Beach continues to require charcoal-only at the fire pits. Allen gets nothing but bragging rights — he’s saved the fire rings as his press release will claim, but Huntington Beach’s 550 pits were never in jeopardy.