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Updates Proposed for Wood Heater Standards

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Environmental Protection Agency plans to update performance standards for residential wood heaters, to include heater enhancements.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA periodically reviews performance standards for residential wood heaters.

A number of stakeholders urged the EPA to conduct a review of those performance standards, which led to a proposed rule issued this week.

The agency found the current standards should be revised "to capture the improvements in performance of such units" and to expand the standards to include other wood-burning devices that heat homes.

Among other things, the proposed changes would deal with reducing carbon monoxide and other toxic emissions.

"These revisions will help reduce the health impacts of fine particle pollution, of which wood smoke is a contributing factor in many areas," the agency wrote.

"Residential wood smoke contains fine particles with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, carbon monoxide, toxic air pollutants (e.g., benzene and formaldehyde), and climate-forcing emissions (e.g., methane and black carbon)," it continued.

The agency noted that older adults, children, and people with heart and lung diseases are at particular risk for exposure to such emissions.

"Each year, smoke from wood heaters contributes hundreds of thousands of tons of fine particles throughout the country--mostly during the winter months," the agency wrote. "Nationally, residential wood combustion accounts for 44 percent of total stationary and mobile polycyclic organic matter emissions, nearly 25 percent of all area source air toxics cancer risks, and 15 percent of noncancer respiratory effects," it continued.

In some places, such as Sacramento, Calif. and Tacoma, Wash., burning wood contributes to more than half of daily fine particle emissions in the winter, the agency found.

Under current regulations, performance standards for wood heaters apply to heaters made after 1988, and under the new rule, new heaters will have to meet updated emission standards after their certification expires.

The original regulation focused on "adjustable burn rate" wood heaters, and the agency proposed expanding the regulation to include other wood and pellet heaters.

The agency also proposed updating its approach to compliance and certification with the new emission standards.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held on Feb. 26 at the EPA's New Englad Regional Office in Boston. Comments on the proposal are due by May 5.

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