"NORTH POLE, Alaska — In Krystal Francesco's neighborhood, known here as the 'rectangle of death,' the air pollution recently was so thick she could hardly see across the street. Wood stoves were cranking all over town — it was 40 below zero — and she had to take her daughter to the emergency room."
"'She's crying because she can't breathe, and I can just see her stomach rapidly going in and out. Sometimes, she's coughing to the point of throwing up,' Francesco said of her 2½-year-old daughter, Kalli, who uses two different inhalers. 'Even in the house, the smoke is coming in and it smells awful.'
Most people think of Alaska as one of the last great escapes from urban pollution. But they have not spent a winter in Fairbanks or the nearby town of North Pole, where air-quality readings in November were twice as bad as Beijing's.
Here, it's not freeways or factories fouling the air — it's wood stoves and backyard wood furnaces that send thick clouds of gray smoke roiling into the pines. On the cold, clear days when the temperature hits minus 50, an inversion layer often traps a blanket of smoke near the ground, and driving to work in North Pole can be like motoring through fog."