As a child of heavily smoking parents, I always hated tobacco. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t have an understanding of the impact tobacco had on their health when I was a child. Secondhand some also had an impact on my health, but can you blame someone that didn’t understand that smoke is smoke. A toxic combination of tiny particles and chemicals that will alter and break your DNA. Also, the mentality in Mediterranean and Balkan countries is still to this day different from the rest of the world. Some people still believe it is an enjoyable habit to smoke while taking a coffee or after a meal.
It took a great effort to teach my parents that smoking is not good for anyone. At the end, they saw plenty of examples among the family members that died due to this harmful habit, and they gave it up.
For most of us that have visited a beach, we have found a tremendous amount of cigarette butts in the sand. A disgusting habit that authorities must penalize because it is not only aesthetically unpleasing but is also harmful to the marine life and the food we end up eating.
Although some people claim that the wood-burning season doesn’t exist anymore because people never stop burning stuff (and this is true in some regions), the vast majority of the population can’t wait for cold weather to arrive in order to light the “cozy” wood stoves and unconsciously chock the village with toxic smoke.
Yes, wood-stoves even the ECO friendly or low-emissions or EPA certified or you name it, are huge polluters! They emit lots of particulate matter (commonly known as PM2.5) and a huge array of toxic chemicals that sometimes linger in the air for many days. Air pollution kills 13 people every minute worldwide and scientists at Harvard University found that dwellers who live in polluted areas are 15% more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who do not!
The atmospheric conditions and the geographical location of a village or city work in a complex way sometimes in favor of the dwellers but most of the time against the dwellers. When a city is surrounded by hills and mountains air pollution tends to stay there for a long time, like in Murcia, Spain. In that case, people’s lungs work as purifiers and trap all the pollutants, as a result, we have more hospital admissions and more chances to suffer severe health effects due to the air pollution which is deposed inside our bodies. The cost to maintain public health also increases.
By comparison, wood smoke from stoves and boilers carries the highest concentration across all pollutants. One eco-certified wood stove is rated at 3.1grams/h of particulate matter which is equal to six heavy-duty lorries which are rated at 0.5grams/h of particulate matter each.
In August 2021 (summer in Northern Hemisphere), I travelled from Spain to Greece in order to visit my parents as I hadn’t see them for a long time due to the pandemic. I visited 10 countries and I evaluated the air quality with a portable air quality monitor (Atmotube PRO) but as well as the behavior of the people in these countries as they tend to have different customs when it comes to cooking or transporting around the cities.
This evaluation is very narrow because of the fact that I didn’t stay longer than a day or two in each city so take it with a pinch of salt. Also, the climatological conditions were entangled to the summer month of August and high temperatures were expected in the Mediterranean coastline. Wildfires are more likely to occur during the dry month of August and indeed I witnessed a few in the Balkans.
Wildfires: some say that we have to learn to live with them, some say that we need to stay indoors and close doors, windows, and ventilation systems until the plumes of smoke settle down, but in reality, we have to do something else, I will elaborate on that in a flaming hot minute!
Wildfires are very dangerous and destructive for many reasons. When I read on the news that a new fire started even in the most remote location in the world, I take a deep breath because it can happen to anyone and everywhere. It has happened to my parents’ house, and a vast feeling of impotency takes your whole body. In most cases, we worry about the destructiveness, but it is more than that.
Wildfires can occur naturally but unfortunately in most cases, they are byproducts of unconscious anthropogenic behaviour because we leave trash everywhere. Glass bottles that work as magnifying glass under the hot summer sunlight, cigarette buds, fireworks, BBQs are some of the common reasons wildfires start.
Not many people know this but wildfires create new wildfires through pyrocumulus clouds which basically are the cloud plumes that are electrically charged, as a result, lightning bolts come out of the pyrocumulus clouds which light new fires a few kilometers away. Firefighters have a hard time controlling multiple fronts and those kinds of fronts are unpredictably created.