Open-air burning

Open-air burning (a fire outside of a building), can include a wide variety of activities such as burning of domestic and industrial waste, use of firewood in cooking stoves, and burning of crop residues in agricultural areas. Open air burning may also include recreational activities such as barbecue parties, camp fires, and bonfires.

Did you know?

There are only certain materials that you are permitted to burn and they vary by municipality. For more information on what materials you are allowed to burn, please contact your local municipal office or fire department.

What type of pollutants are released when open-air burning?

Burning wood will release various pollutants into the air that may be harmful to us and the environment, including particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ozone, and water vapour. Wood smoke may also contain cancer-causing substances, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and benzene formaldehyde.

Burning noxious materials, including treated wood and waste, releases similar substances as wood smoke, but will also unnecessarily emit other harmful toxins such as dioxins and furans. Do not burn any noxious material, including but not limited to tires, plastics, rubber products, drywall, battery boxes, pressure-treated or painted wood, or any other type of waste.

What are some health effects of open-air burning?

Some of the substances found in smoke from open-air burning are so small that our noses and upper respiratory systems are not able to filter them out. As a result, they may end up settling deep within our lungs, potentially damaging cells that protect our airways.

Breathing in wood smoke is associated with an increase in respiratory irritations and symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness, asthma attacks and shortness of breath. Exposure to wood smoke may also decrease lung function and is associated with an increased number of visits to emergency departments and hospitalizations.

Breathing in smoke from noxious material has similar health effects as wood smoke. However, some toxins, such as dioxins, can build up in the environment and in your body. Smoke from noxious material may disrupt your hormone system and has been associated with an increased risk of other chronic health problems.

To protect your health and the health of the environment, Southwestern Public Health encourages you to help reduce exposure to smoke from open-air burning.

Reducing exposure to smoke from open-air burning

  • Do not burn wood. However, if you must heat with wood, burn only clean, dry wood. Do not burn garbage, plastics, rubber, paint, oil, painted, or any treated paper.
  • Build small fires instead of large ones.
  • Monitor the smoke. A proper fire should only produce a thin wisp of white steam.
  • Do not conduct open-air burning when the weather is too dry or windy, or if there is a smog alert or fire ban in place.
  • Regularly inspect your stove or fireplace.ding open-air burning, contact your municipal office or local fire department.
Last Updated: June 1, 2018