Smoke from wood stoves and fireplaces can be harmful to your health. Learn how to reduce your health risks from wood smoke.
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Wood smoke and indoor air
You may use a:
- wood stove as:
- your main source of heat
- a back-up source of heat
However, wood smoke, like wildfire smoke, contains a number of pollutants that can be harmful to your health.
Protect yourself and your family by installing smoke detectors and at least 1 carbon monoxide (CO) alarm in your home.
Wood smoke can get into your home:
- from other nearby homes with wood-burning stoves
- when you open the stove to add or stoke the firewood
- through leaks and cracks in faulty or poorly-maintained stoves
The main pollutants in wood smoke that cause health concerns are:
- particulate matter (PM)
- carbon monoxide (CO)
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Wood smoke also contains small amounts of other toxic compounds, including nitrogen oxides and chlorinated dioxins. Nitrogen oxides can contribute to health and environmental hazards like smog and acid rain.
Health risks of wood smoke
Wood smoke can cause:
- eye, nose, and throat irritation
It can make asthma and other breathing (respiratory) problems worse.
Wood smoke can be a significant contributor to smog, which has been linked to severe health risks, including increased hospital admissions and even premature death.
Wood smoke can affect anyone, but these groups are especially vulnerable:
- older adults
- people with heart or lung problems
Tips to reduce the impacts of wood smoke
If you use a wood stove or fireplace in your home, follow these tips to help reduce the health and environmental impacts of wood smoke:
- choose a low-emission stove
- install an "advance combustion" wood stove or fireplace insert to reduce toxic emissions
- look for appliances that are CSA or US EPA certified
- certified appliances generate fewer harmful particles and are more fuel efficient than non-certified models
- maintain your stove
- make sure that your wood stove is well maintained and working properly
- have it inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year
- clean your chimney
- clean your chimney and flues regularly, follow the manufacturer's instructions
- use your dampers
- allow more air (ventilation) when starting a fire, and close the dampers when the wood is well charred. This produces more heat, so you use less wood.
- burn wisely
- avoid burning wood on days when air pollution levels are high
- maintain stable hot combustion conditions, as smouldering leads to higher levels of wood smoke PM emissions
The condition of the wood you burn and the way you store it also matters:
- let wood breathe
- stack wood loosely in your firebox to let the air freely circulate around it
- burn smaller pieces of wood
- small pieces are more efficient and a better source of heat
- use dry, seasoned wood
- cut, split and stack wood in a dry area for at least 6 months before burning it
- household garbage or cardboard
- wet, rotted, diseased or mouldy wood
- wood that has been painted or chemically treated
- ocean driftwood, plywood, particle board or any wood with glue on or in it
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