In expressing her concerns about the health risks posed by wood smoke at last week's Clintonville Area Commission meeting, local resident Paula Mouser wasn't speaking only as the mother of a prematurely born child at risk for lung problems.

In expressing her concerns about the health risks posed by wood smoke at last week's Clintonville Area Commission meeting, local resident Paula Mouser wasn't speaking only as the mother of a prematurely born child at risk for lung problems.

She also spoke as Dr. Paula Mouser, an assistant professor of civil, environmental and geodetic engineering at Ohio State University.

Mouser, the mother and the academician, presented commission members with reams of research along with a more manageable two-page summary complete with references generally expressing her dismay that there seems to be no mechanism for her and other Columbus residents bothered by smoke from wood stoves and wood-burning furnaces to seek relief.

Fireplaces are not really the problem in her area of Clintonville, Mouser said, but rather the wood-burning stoves of four homes on her block near Indianola Avenue and Crestview Road, including the ones on each side of her house. Unlike fireplaces, which burn intermittently, stoves belch smoke out of chimneys all day long, the assistant professor said.

"It's like cigarette smoke," Mouser told CAC members. "When we're talking about breathing wood smoke in our neighborhoods, we're talking about breathing secondhand smoke just like cigarettes."

The very young, such as her daughter, who was born two months premature last year, and senior citizens are most at risk for health problems related to breathing wood smoke, including asthma, bronchitis and heart disease, she said.

"We have smoke that actually intrudes in our house," Mouser said. "That's a huge issue for us because that's something generated on someone else's property that comes onto ours and we can't do anything about it."

She added she and her husband have spent thousands of dollars on equipment to remove the smoke when it wafts in, but with limited success.

David Vottero, who represents District 1 where Mouser lives, suggested she contact the city's environmental steward. Judy Minister of District 4 advised her to seek the assistance of officials with the Franklin County Environmental Court, which District 5's Matthew Cull pointed out handles both civil and criminal cases.

Cull told Mouser that a complicating factor in her efforts to curb the neighbors from using their wood stoves might be if they are doing so because they can't afford their heating bills.

"This is an air-pollution issue," Mouser said. "I'm not the only person affected by this. I'm the most vocal about this. We have no way to protect our health."

CAC Chairwoman Libby Wetherholt said she would personally seek to communicate with the environmental steward and some other city officials.

"We'll keep tabs on this," she added.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1