Thinking of curling up with a mug of hot cocoa and a good book in front of a roaring fire? Indoor wood-burning stoves and heaters may have a quaint and traditional feel, but they produce harmful toxins that can damage your lungs and air quality indoors and outdoors.
Before you throw another log on the fire, learn more about wood-burning devices and how to protect your family's lungs:
Long- and Short-Term Effects of Wood Smoke
The smoke from wood-burning devices, such as stoves and heaters, contains fine particle pollution, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and hazardous air pollutants, such as benzene and formaldehyde. The particle pollution is especially dangerous because these particles are so tiny that they can get deep into the organs, harming not just the lungs, but also blood vessels and the heart. Wood smoke can cause coughing, wheezing and asthma attacks, and lead to serious health issues, such as heart attacks, lung cancer and premature death. Wood smoke also adds carbon dioxide and methane to the air, both of which significantly contribute to climate change.
Children, Older Adults and Those with Lung Diseases Need More Protection
Wood smoke is not good for any set of lungs, but it can be particularly harmful to those with vulnerable lungs, such as children and older adults. Additionally, those with lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer are also more affected by wood smoke. Breathing the smoke can easily cause coughing and asthma attacks.
Wood Smoke Effects Outdoor Pollution
Wood stoves and, especially, hydronic heaters often run 24-hours a day, pumping wood smoke and toxins into the outdoor air. If wood-burning stoves or heaters are affecting your neighborhood’s air, take steps to protect your family: encourage children, older adults and those living with lung disease to remain indoors; use the recirculate function on air conditioners; and keep windows and vents closed. Consult a doctor before using a dust mask, especially if you have lung disease.
Find Alternatives to Wood
To reduce indoor and outdoor pollution from wood-burning devices, switch to cleaner devices such as natural gas stoves and heaters, and make sure they are fully vented to the outdoors. If you are unable to switch, use pellets and dry wood for a cleaner and more efficient burn. You can also buy a cleaner wood-burning device. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted new standards for cleaner and more energy efficient wood-burning devices in 2015. Many devices currently meet the 2020 standards and have hangtags showing this certification.
Helping Communities Get Cleaner, More Efficient Heat