The Risks of Wood Smoke
Using wood for cooking and recreational fires is a common practice for many homes across the United States. However, when looking at the impact on the community, it is important address the risks associated with wood smoke and how we as residents can improve our air quality.
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), burning wood produces emissions that are widely recognized as harmful to human health. These emissions can occur both indoors and outdoors, and actively affect people with lung diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, children, and older adults.
Short-term exposure to fine particles in the air may increase the risk of respiratory infections. Scientists have also linked short-term exposures to heart attacks and abnormal heartbeats. Over time, breathing fine particles in the air increases the chances of developing chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, or lung cancer.
Exposure to wood smoke may also be harmful to respiratory immune responses, leaving people more at risk for infectious lung disease. In high concentrations, wood smoke can permanently damage lung tissue.
How Wood-Burning Emissions Threaten Lung Health
Emissions from wood smoke, can cause coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, lung cancer, and other health effects. Many of these pollutants can worsen air quality indoors and outdoors. If you’d like to learn more, please visit the American Lung Association links below.
- Particle pollution
Refers to a mix of tiny solid/liquid particles in the air, with wood-burning being a major source of particle pollution.
- Carbon monoxide
Wood smoke add to the outdoor levels of carbon monoxide, as well as increasing indoor concentrations.
- Nitrogen oxides
Nitrogen oxides harm residential health indoors and outdoors, and can help create particle pollution.
- Volatile organic compounds
These gases include harmful contaminants and contribute to creating ozone pollution.
What You Can Do to Help
Reducing Wood Smoke at Home
One way you can reduce health risks with burning wood in your home is to use newer fireplace inserts. Those manufactured after 1992 are significantly cleaner-burning than older models because of federal air quality regulations that went into effect, according to the EPA.
If these newer appliances are properly installed, well-maintained and used correctly, they can reduce outdoor and indoor air pollution from burning wood – and consequently, help decrease potential risks to your health.
Tips to Reduce the Impact of Wood Smoke
If you use wood for heating or for recreational fires, here are some tips to help reduce the risk of harmful effects to yourself, your neighbors, and the community.
- Burn dry wood that has been split, covered and stored for at least six months.
- Do not burn plastic, garbage or pressure-treated wood, as they emit toxic fumes and particles.
- Use newspaper and small pieces of dry wood to start fires.
- Do not use wood that has been painted, stained, or treated. This will make it difficult to determine the type of wood and the chemicals it has been exposed to.
- Link to PCA Guidelines on Treated Wood PDF
- Be aware of State and Local Government Regulations for Recreational Fires.
- Link to State Regulations on Recreational Fires PDF
More Air Quality Information
Follow the links below to learn more about other sources of outdoor air pollution.
- Electric Utilities
Electric utilities are used to heat Roseville homes and water, and are often fueled by burning coal, natural gas, oil and biomass. These produce air pollutants such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2) that harm lung health.
Every day, thousands of commuters enter Roseville in vehicles to move people, goods, and fuel from one place to another. This can pollute the air and harm human health.
- Residential Sources
All Roseville households use energy sources to heat, cool, and power their homes. These sources also produce emissions that can decrease air quality in neighborhoods.
- Commercial and Industrial
Harmful emissions come from heating, cooling and powering Roseville’s businesses and industrial operations, as well as from manufacturing processes.
- Emergencies and Natural Disasters
Wildfires, flooding, tornadoes and other natural events can create unhealthy air, especially for people with lung disease.