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Higher Levels of Air Pollution Expected Wednesday

Berkeley can expect a jump in the level of air pollution Wednesday and a fifth Spare the Air Day for the Bay Area. Burning wood indoors or outdoors will be illegal all day.

Poor air quality expected Wednesday in the Bay Area has prompted the fifth Spare the Air alert of the winter season. Wood burning will be illegal all day.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issues a daily air quality forecast for the coming five days using the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index Scale

On Wednesday, the North Counties are expected to be most affected, with a score of 102 out of a possible 300, where 300 represents the most heavily polluted air and zero indicates the least. 

The Coast and Central Zone, which includes Berkeley, is expected to have "moderate" air quality, with a score of 97. The agency suggests that "unusually sensitive" people should avoid prolonged outdoor exercise. Tuesday's rating for the area was 36.

During a winter Spare the Air Alert, the use of fireplaces, pellet stoves, wood stoves, fireplace inserts and outdoor fire pits is illegal for 24-hours.

The ban will be in effect in for Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, southern Sonoma and southwestern Solano counties, air district officials said.

Beginning Wednesday last week, there were four consecutive Spare the Air days.

Wood smoke is the leading cause of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area, according to district officials, because it contains harmful pollutants — including soot and carbon monoxide. The smoke also contains toxins such as dioxin, which has been linked to increased cancer rates in adults.

Breathing polluted air can aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions, and cause more serious health problems if exposure is prolonged. 

Roughly 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves burn in the Bay Area, according to the district, causing around one-third of the harmful soot in the winter air.

To find out if a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect, residents and business owners who own or use any indoor or outdoor fireplace, fire pit or wood or pellet stove can do the following:

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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