The Health Effects of Wood Smoke

I just finished reading What’s Gotten Into Us by McKay Jenkins. This could very well be a sequel to Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Everyone should read these books. Perhaps then we could start to limit the toxic chemicals that are in our air, water, earth, food, and even our bodies.

There is one area we can do something about now. I have become increasingly concerned about the dangers of wood smoke. Wood smoke contains carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carcinogens, other toxic chemicals, and fine particles that get into our lungs. This smoke exacerbates colds, flu, asthma and other illnesses.

“Reducing particle pollution will prevent heart attacks and asthma attacks, and will keep children out of the emergency room and hospitals,” according to Norman Edelman, M.D., chief officer for the American Lung Association on new standards to limit particle pollution (soot), which has been linked to lung and heart disease, acute asthma, and premature deaths.

Wood burning should be a good thing. It is a home grown renewable resource and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. If burned cleanly, most of the harmful effects are eliminated. “Air-tight” stoves are not meant to be burned airtight. When burned with the air too restricted, they produce excessive smoke, and create a health hazard to the homeowner and to their neighbors. The medical costs of this health hazard are enormous.

We should emulate Washington State, which requires proper burning and limits the unhealthy wood smoke.

Burning wood cleanly is quite simple. The smoke is clear, and you burn up to one third less wood. Burn only dry seasoned wood and make sure you have a good thermometer. The flue temperature should be 400 to 900oF. That’s it.

There are many sources online. One good one is

–Doug Pride, for the Green Team


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