Physicians organization gives 17 reasons to ban wood burning

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment give 17 reasons to ban wood burning:

1. All pollution is not created equal. Wood smoke is the most toxic type of pollution in most cities, more dangerous than auto pollution and most industrial pollution. Lighting a wood fire in your house is like starting up your own toxic incinerator.
2. Lifetime cancer risk is 12 times greater for wood smoke compared to an equal volume of second hand cigarette smoke.
3. Burning 10 lbs. of wood for one hour, releases as much PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) as 6,000 packs of cigarettes.
4. Toxic free-radical chemicals in wood smoke are biologically active 40 times longer than the free radicals in cigarette smoke.
5. Wood smoke is the third largest source of dioxins, one of the most intensely toxic compounds known to science.
6. The very small size of wood particles make them seven times more likely to be inhaled than other particulate pollution.
7. Wood smoke easily penetrates homes of neighbors creating concentrations up to 88% as high as outdoor air.
8. If you smell wood smoke, you know you are being harmed. The sweet smell comes from deadly compounds like benzene.
9. The most dangerous components of air pollution are much higher inside homes that burn wood compared to those that don’t, as much as 500% higher.
10. Considering the most dangerous part of particulate pollution, wood burning produces as much overall as all our cars during the winter.
11. The inhalable particulate pollution from one woodstove is equivalent to the amount emitted from 3,000 gas furnaces producing the same amount of heat.
12. Emissions from modern combustion appliances for wood logs may increase ten-fold if they are not operated appropriately, and most of them are not.
13. Wood smoke is the only pollution emitted right where people spend most of their time. It disperses poorly, is not evenly distributed and stays in the air longer because of its small size. Concentrations can be 100 times higher for neighbors of wood burners than what is captured at the nearest monitoring station. Real local “pollution victims” are created even when overall community levels are low.
14. If your neighbor is a regular wood burner, and follows all the rules, i.e. doesn’t burn during yellow or red alert days, but does during all “green” days, you can go an entire winter without having one single day of clean air. This is a civil rights issue.
15. According to California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District, burning wood costs the rest of the community, primarily your next door neighbors, at least $2 in extra medical expenses for every lb of wood that you burn. An average fire then costs your neighbors about $40.
16. Long ago most communities passed ordinances protecting people from second hand cigarette smoke. Ironically those laws protect people at places they don’t necessarily have to be (restaurants, stores, buildings, etc). But in the one place they have to be, their own home, they have no protection from something even worse-wood smoke. People should have just as much protection from wood smoke as from cigarette smoke and for all the same reasons. We don’t allow people to blow cigarette smoke in your face, why should we allow people to blow wood smoke into your home?
17. Wood burning is not even close to carbon neutral over the short term, the next few decades, and it is that time frame that will make or break the climate crisis. Burning wood is extremely in inefficient. Per unit of heat created wood produces even more CO2 than the fossil fuels do. Furthermore, the black carbon particulate matter released enhances the absorption of radiant heat in the atmosphere, making global warming worse, and prematurely melts already imperiled mountain snow pack.


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  • VicSteblin

    Of course, what wood burner would agree to any of this. They will just shout all the louder, about their rights, keep themselves warm, poverty, etc and keep giving everyone else their ATTITUDE.

    • Airquality Australia

      problem is that people simply don’t want to believe that wood smoke is
      a serious threat to our health – that it causes strokes, cancers, heart
      and lung disease, cot deaths, and even genetic damage in babies as
      well as reduced IQ and increased risk of behavioral problems children start school. Five studies have also linked particle pollution to autism.

      Here’s an article about the Fireplace Delusion –

      The question is how can these delusions be overcome so that people can a
      make a rational decision about the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals
      being spewed into the air and affecting the health of everyone who breathes them?

      • VicSteblin

        I totally agree with you, Airquality Australia, and the idea must be to forever explain to others the basics about wood smoke, the history, traditions, all those rights that burners think they have, etc. And like all changes in society, first will come the silly put downs, then some extreme reactions, and finally that banning wood burning in crowded areas makes common sense.

  • Airquality Australia

    Here’s a link to the American Lung Association’s page that cautions against wood-burning and urging cleaner alternatives for winter heat

  • Vince Vespa

    Thanks to Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment for helping in the fight to clear our air!

  • c jamieson

    Wood heating emissions also cause tracheitis (I’ve had it!) and nasal polyps….
    the list goes on.
    Thanks to Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment for highlighting this
    significant public health hazard.

  • Ernest Grolimund

    Great article. Great source. Boston banned coal burning in houses in1976 after studying the London Fog air pollution Disaster caused by coal burning in fireplaces. Wood burning is much worse than coal burning so it should be banned too. Laws about laws point out old unsafe laws must be amended. The images of smoke filling up Salt Lake City are like those of London. Maybe not as bad, visually, but more toxic. I commend the Governor and the head of the Utah Air Bureau for good leadership which should save lives, stop and prevent injuries, stimulate the economy, and lead to more jobs per EPA studies over decades. The benefit to cost ratio for enforcement of the intent of the clean air act is 30 to one. What a great investment stopping pollution is.

  • ladadog

    We have a problem where the homeowner rebuilt his garage and is non conforming and put in a wood stove–this new non conforming structure is 196 square feet and the chimney is 12 feet from our property if at all that and the bldg. is 8 inches from our property line–the discharge from what was a once a one car bungalow garage now from his wood burning stove on to our property and eventually in our house has a tremendous health impact–he is sealed up in his new “living ” area and burns until 3 am and then started again as he did today at 1pm—the stench, odor, particle matter and the devaluation of our property and loss of our rights as well as health and financial investment are immeasurable–
    This needs to be stopped–we have to take him to court at an unknown cost and he is trying to force us to leave our house–this from an ex marine that flies the “Don’t Tread on Me Flag” and then takes away our health and use of property—-We need a bigger flag. He obviously can not read and does not understand—and by the way, my husband also served and would never think of of doing something like this with the adverse health effects and loss of rights–never…thats the difference between the generations–no respect and self serving. All cities need to ban this in residential to preserve everyone’s right to quality of life and health on their property.

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