Central Saanich hopes to clear the air in reviewing its open air burning bylaw adopted a quarter-century ago.
The review comes after Island Health flagged the issue in an October 2017 letter encouraging municipalities to pursue various policies designed to curb the emission of fine particulate matter found in wood smoke.
“When inhaled, [fine particulate matter] embeds deep inside the tissue of the lung,” said Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer, in the letter. “Exposure is associated with a shortened lifespan, and can lead to lung cancer, reduced lung functioning and worsening of heart disease and asthma among those who suffer from these conditions.”
Wood smoke also contains many of the same harmful substances that are found in tobacco smoke, he said.
The emission of fine particular matter will likely strike a chord with elderly residents of Central Saanich.
A 2017 Health Canada study found linked an increase in fine particular matter specifically due to wood burning in the winter to a 19 percent increase in hospitalization for heart attacks among individuals 65 years or older.
Just under 26 per cent of Central Saanich residents fall into that category. By way of comparison, the figure is 40.8 per cent in Sidney, and almost 32 per cent in North Saanich.
Fine particular matter, of course, does not respect municipal boundaries, and Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said that the municiaplity looks to share the findings of its review with neighbouring communities, likely Saanich and North Saanich.
Central Saanich residents have until Feb. 15 to submit their feedback. Windsor said he expects staff to come forward with something in March or April of this year.