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Lincoln County shows improved air quality as woodstove changeout campaign ends


Lincoln County residents are breathing cleaner air thanks to a woodstove changeout campaign established in 2004 by EPA, the woodstove industry, and state and local governments. The campaign ended recently, and preliminary air monitoring results are promising.

The Woodstove Changeout Campaign replaced old, polluting woodstoves with cleaner-burning, EPA-certified woodstoves in the Libby, Mont., area. Smoke from woodstoves is believed to be the primary source of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) emissions in and around Libby.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is congratulating Lincoln County residents for their outstanding contribution to the highly successful woodstove changeout campaign. The Lincoln County Department of Environmental Health’s commitment to partnerships with EPA, the woodstove industry, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) have resulted in a significant improvement in air quality by reducing PM2.5 emissions.

“Improving public health by helping the residents of Libby reduce pollution and meet national air quality standards for fine particles is our top priority" EPA Region 8 Air and Radiation Program Director, Callie Videtich said.

The woodstove changeout was supported by a $985,000 grant combined with previous efforts initiated three years ago has resulted in more than 1000 woodstoves being replaced. An earlier phase of the woodstove changeout began when the Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association donated new, EPA-certified stoves and chimneys free of charge for about 300 lower-income households. Additional grant funds were provided by EPA, the State of Montana and Lincoln County.

Preliminary results obtained from the air quality monitors indicate a steady decline in the levels of PM2.5 emissions. The average monitored monthly particulate levels during the winter of 2006-2007 were between 15 and 35 percent lower than the measured levels in the years before the program began.

John Coefield, MDEQ meteorologist, has tracked the results of the program over the past several years. “We won’t know what the final results of the change-out program will be until next spring,” he said. However, we are very encouraged about the results so far and pleased that the program is having the desired effect"

Researchers estimate that about 80 percent of Lincoln County’s fine particle pollution comes from residential wood smoke from woodstoves, fireplaces and outdoor wood heaters. Fine particles are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less -- about 1/30th the size of the average human hair, or smaller.

Exposure to fine particle pollution has been linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma and the development of chronic bronchitis, to heart arrhythmia, heart attacks, and even premature death in people with heart and lung disease.

The Lincoln County Woodstove Changeout is part of the Great American Woodstove Changeout Campaign, EPA’s national effort to reduce pollution by replacing older woodstoves with cleaner-burning EPA-certified woodstoves, pellet stoves or fireplace inserts, or with electric or gas heating units.


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