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Residential Wood Burning Can Harm Our Health

American Lung Association in California urges cleaner alternatives for heat

(October 31, 2018) -

With the recent cold temperatures and start of the Spare the Air season on November 1, the American Lung Association in California is urging the public to avoid wood burning and to consider cleaner heating alternatives. Burning wood emits harmful toxins and fine particles into the air that can worsen asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“Breathing particle pollution – or soot –can shorten life and send those most at risk to the emergency room,” said Sharon Chinthrajah, MD, a pulmonologist in the Divisions of Pulmonary/Critical Care and Allergy/Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine and a volunteer physician for the American Lung Association in California. “Wood smoke particles are so small, they can bypass the airway defenses and enter directly into the lung and bloodstream and can cause damage to cells, and lead to lung disease and heart attacks.”

As with any pollution, children are especially at risk. Their lungs do not fully form until the age of 18 and exposure to higher levels of wood smoke can lead to reduced lung function and risk of future lung disease. For children with asthma, breathing wood smoke can lead to serious asthma attacks and breathing emergencies.

Wood smoke particles contain black carbon which is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after carbon dioxide. 

What Residents Can Do To Breathe Easier

Enjoy the glow without the smoke - natural gas, propane and electric devices are all cleaner alternatives.

Convert a wood-burning fireplace or stove to use either natural gas, propane or electric heat pumps to eliminate exposure to the dangerous fumes wood burning generates. Any wood burning emits harmful particles that can contribute to dangerous air pollution, affecting both your family and your neighbors.

Directly vent heating devices outside the home to reduce exposure to carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and other emissions produced by these energy sources.

The public may visit the Bay Area Air Quality Management District website to learn more about their programs to reduce wood smoke pollution, and for more information about the health effects of wood burning and ways to improve lung health, they may visit and call our Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872).


About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

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