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Alaska battle for a unique problem: Dirty winter air

In this file photo, ice fog envelops the city of Fairbanks, Alaska. (Eric Engman/Fairbanks daily News-Miner via AP, File)

Chances are, old Saint Nick was happy to flee the north pole to make his yearly rounds this Christmas. A dirty haze in this part of northern Alaska, and floated over streets named Santa Claus Lane.

The New York Times lays the blame on what he calls a “only-in-Alaska” pollution problem: People make use of old, inefficient wood-burning stoves, and when the smoke from their chimneys, cold temperatures force back down to the ground floor.

That results in the highest readings in the country of the pollution measure called PM 2.5, which refers to fine-particles. In fact, it is the area affected by a record stretch of six consecutive days earlier this month, with air considered unhealthy, reports the Fairbanks News-Miner.

This ground-level pollution is seen as particularly dangerous, because it can directly into the lungs. The dirty stove issue is particularly pronounced in the Fairbanks-north pole area, about the size of New Jersey.

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With cleaner natural gas in short supply, and heating oil more expensive, wood is the fuel of choice as the temperatures hover around minus 20 below. Upgrade to a more efficient wood-burning stove is expensive, even with the local help of the government, and many independent Alaska balk at the cost—and being told what to do.

(A campaign is trying to spread the word that the upgrade is actually a wise investment, and points to the Pioneer.) Non-compliance may result in residents of a fine and the district will lose federal transportation funds if the EPA declares the area in violation of the Clean Air Act.

“Both parties are digging in their heels,” Mayor Karl Kassel says the Times. (Some in China to buy Canadian air in may.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Some of the Dirtiest Air in the US Can Be Found at the north pole

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