Health Experts Say Bonfires Cause Issues For People With Chronic Upper Respiratory Conditions

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Those chilly evenings are back, and people are ready to bust out the blankets and chill by the bonfire.

But public health experts told KDKA that you should refrain from recreational burning, at least for right now.

The Allegheny County Health Department said burning during the COVID-19 crisis could cause issues for people with chronic upper respiratory conditions and encourages the public to cut back on open burning.

“Different medical conditions, you’re more affected by that smoke,” said Dean Deluca from the county health department.

The health department said smoke worsens conditions for people with asthma and COPD, making them more susceptible to the coronavirus and lessening their chances of beating it.

“The smoke, if it goes off the property, it could be hitting your neighbors. It could be hitting them within their house,” said Deluca.

In Allegheny County, fires must be arranged in a 3-foot by 3-foot pile and at least 15 feet from the property line. Experts say what you burn makes a big difference.

“If you’re burning plastics, that’s going to have a much more detrimental effect to the air quality,” said Deluca.

You can reduce pollution by avoiding freshly cut tree limbs. Those are bad because of their high water content.

“If half of what you’re burning by weight is water, that’s going to create a lot of smoke,” said Deluca.

You want to use seasoned wood that is air-dried for a recommended six months. The health department also said burning near trees and grass is dangerous right now because of the dry weather conditions. This could make the fire spread.