Smoke gets in my eyes, lungs and throat. It fills my house and there is no escape. I have lived in my lovely home for more than 20 years, longer, I am pretty sure, than the various neighbors whose houses back up to mine on my street. Long enough to know the problem of grilling fumes, and now wood smoke, are getting worse and worse by the year.

I cannot escape, even with the windows closed on a cool evening following a hot day, when I so long to let in the breezes that will bring my family a healthy and restful night's sleep. I am trapped. The smell of charring meat fills every corner of my house, upstairs and down.

And, perhaps even more concerning, on many late nights -- starting as late as midnight and lingering into the early morning hours -- we found our house smothered in wood smoke.

I awake choking, my eyes burning. I did not realize how toxic wood smoke exposure is, but it is as toxic as secondhand cigarette smoke, and the particles are so small, so invasive, they will pass through the walls of our house, and we have absolutely no way to stop it.

Please feel free to refer to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District website about the dangers of wood smoke.


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We cannot change the direction the blessedly cool breezes of Alameda blow. They blow the grilling smoke and wood smoke directly from our neighbors' backyards into our house. I sometimes wonder if these homeowners situated their grills, and whatever is generating the wood smoke -- fire pits, fireplaces, meat smokers -- in front of their own homes, so they themselves experienced the flood of fumes and choking smoke in their own living rooms and bedrooms, whether they might have more awareness and compassion, take more responsibility for not only the discomfort but the health hazards they are creating.

My options are few, I cannot even count on being able to open my windows late at night to cool my house as much as possible before the next warm day.

I cannot change the direction of the wind. I should not have to purchase air conditioning in Alameda, and that would not protect my family from the dangers of wood smoke exposure.

I can, I have been told, call the Alameda Fire Department -- in the case of wood smoke -- and they will track down the source of the smoke. I can file a complaint with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. And it does not have to be a spare-the-air day for a valid complaint to be filed. And fines can eventually be levied. I do not want to have to do these things.

I simply want to be able to breathe clean, healthy air in my home.

Noelle Robbins is a resident of Alameda.