The mayor of San Vitaliano, a town outside of Naples, issued an edict (PDF, Italian) last week banning the use of wood-fired ovens in restaurants for the next three months. If business owners want to continue making traditional wood-fired pizzas and breads before then, they must install special filters on their ovens, which are blamed for exacerbating the town’s air pollution problems.
According to the BBC, police will be checking restaurants and bakeries in the 5,000-person town to enforce the ban and levy fines on those who violate it. The people affected by the ban, predictably, find it ridiculous (Italian). “We can’t be the cause of the smog,” one local told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera (Italian), arguing that “Naples has many more pizzerias than San Vitaliano but doesn’t have the same pollution levels.”
Wood-burning stoves, ovens, and fireplaces do emit harmful pollutants, particularly fine particles that can be inhaled and accumulate in human lungs, causing irritation and even permanent damage. This is why many US states regulate the use of wood-burning appliances.
In Naples—which was once notoriously polluted but has made noticeable improvements in recent years, there were 59 days when the air contained more than 50 micrograms of fine particles (known as PM10) per cubic meter. San Vitaliano, in contrast, experienced 114 days above that level.
Italy’s major cities have been plagued with smog this year: Besides Naples, Milan, Rome, and Turin all experienced more than 40 days with unacceptable levels of air pollution, according to the country’s main environmental watchdog group. Italy had the most pollution-related deaths in Europe in 2012, and Milan and Rome have resorted to traffic restrictions to control smog on several occasions since 2007.