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Is Your Health at Risk? Watch Out for Wood Smoke

Experts caution those who heat with wood to reduce indoor smoke emissions. Here's how.

File photo
File photo
Wood burning can be a safe, economical, and lovely way to heat your house this winter. But wood smoke in the home can cause health issues, and it's something that can be easily reduced to minimize health consequences.

Wood burning or residential wood combustion can include wood in fireplaces as well as woodstoves and other heating devices, according to the Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services. When wood does not burn completely, smoke is produced and that smoke is what presents health concerns because it may contain an elaborate mix of particles and gases.

Particulate matter can come in a wide range of sizes but the EPA is most concerned about the smallest particles. The particulate matter can enter deep into the lungs, heart and bloodstream. Health problems are the result of overexposure to particulate matter. Increased respiratory problems and decreased lung function may occur in individuals.

The population at highest risk are seniors, children and those with heart or lung disease.

Remember to do the following to minimize health hazards:
  • Season your wood outdoors during the dry summer months;
  • Store wood outdoors, stacked off the ground and covered on top;
  • Start your fires with newspaper and dry kindling or install a log lighter in your fireplace;
  • Maintain proper airflow by regularly removing ashes from the appliance;
  • Never burn household garbage, painted wood, ocean driftwood or wet wood in your wood-burning appliance.

For more information, visit the BurnWise website.

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