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Wood-burning Stoves Could Be Harming Your Health

Protect your family, neighbors from toxic emissions from wood-burning devices

(February 8, 2016)

While throwing a log on the fire may be a tradition in your home, many may not know that the smoke from wood-burning stoves may be more harmful than you realize.

Many Americans may have wood-burning stoves in their home as an extra or even primary source of heat. Others may enjoy wood-burning stoves for pleasure or a sense of tradition. Whatever the reason, the reality is that smoke from residential wood heaters can be harmful to the health of those in your home and also in your community. This is especially true for people with lung conditions, as well as children, older adults, people with cardiovascular disease and diabetics. Communities with significant air pollution problems often have "no burn" days. Always check before you burn in your community. Find your state and local air pollution control agency.

Smoke from wood-burning stoves can have both short-term and long-term effects. It can trigger coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and lead to lung cancer and premature death, among other health effects. This is because wood smoke contains fine particle pollution, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, black carbon and air toxics such as benzene. The wood smoke can increase particle pollution to levels that pose serious health concerns both indoors and outdoors. In fact, fine particle pollution (PM2.5) is so tiny that it can get deep into the lungs, harming the lungs, blood vessels and heart.

Wood stoves are often used 24-hours a day, which can actually worsen air pollution outdoors in your community. If wood-burning is affecting air quality in your neighborhood, consider staying indoors, don't exercise outdoors and take extra precautions for kids, who are more susceptible to smoke as their lungs are still developing. Find more tips to protect your health.

The Lung Association advocates for more protective standards for wood-burning stoves to reduce harmful emissions, and in February 2015 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new standards to protect the health of Americans, by cutting harmful emission by up to 70 percent.

  • For the first time ever, the standards set official limits on emissions from several devices, including hydronic heaters, also known as outdoor and indoor wood boilers, devices that are used year-round.
  • Cleaner wood-burning devices are being phased in.  Stoves and heaters meeting the first phase of the new standards should be the only new devices for sale nationwide in 2016. But the EPA gave the industry five years to produce the stoves and heaters meeting the ultimately stronger limits.

Remember, the 2015 standards apply only to new boilers, furnaces and stoves and do not apply to wood-burning devices currently in use, including fireplaces.

If you decide to burn wood in your home, look for the cleanest burning devices and burn cleaner fuel. Learn more about residential wood burning.

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