Wood Smoke and Health

Although some people find wood fires appealing, not everyone shares the same opinion and for good reason, because wood smoke is far from being harmless and can have a serious impact on human health.                      

The smoke from wood burning devices can cause serious health problems.  Breathing air containing wood smoke contributes to cardiovascular problems; lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis; irritation of the lungs, throat, sinuses and eyes; headaches; and allergic reactions. 

There are hundreds of chemical compounds in wood smoke, including many that are irritating and potentially cancer-causing.  Wood smoke pollutants include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, organic gases and particulate matter. 

Particulate matter, the fine material that makes up smoke and soot, may be the most insidious component of wood smoke pollution.  Most of these particles are so small that when inhaled they get past the hairlike cilia that protect the air passages of the lungs.  They can lodge in the deepest part of the lungs, where the blood takes on oxygen.  The particles can cause structural and biochemical changes, including scarring of the tissues.  Many of the particles are toxic.  Death rates in several U.S. cities have been shown to increase with higher levels of fine particulate matter in the air.  Washington State Department of Ecology.  For more researched information refer Health Effects of Wood Smoke at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/92046.html.