This October the city of Montreal will draw a line under a 20-year air pollution problem that started with the 1998 ice storm. Considered one of the worst disasters in Canadian history, around 35 people died and nearly 1,000 were injured. At its peak, more than 3 million people were without electricity as pylons and power lines collapsed under the weight of encrusted ice. Some homes had no power for many weeks. People rushed to install wood burners to keep warm and to be prepared for a repeat of the crisis.
Over the last decade the city has been plagued by winter smogs from home wood burning. With 38% of particle emissions coming from this source, the city had to act. This winter only fireplaces and stoves that meet the latest Canadian standards can be used and new rules will ban all wood burning during smogs.
Across Europe cities are also struggling with the air pollution consequences of a return to solid fuel burning. In the UK, this now accounts for nearly 40%of particle emissions. Clean Air Zones set up following the 1952 London smogshould ban open fires in most cities and define standards for stoves (although not as strict as those in Canada), but these appear to have fallen into abeyance.