ARB Issues Woodburning Health Advisory
SACRAMENTO– The Air Resources Board (ARB) encourages Californians to consider alternatives to woodburning this winter, and to use their woodburning fireplaces and stoves wisely if they use them. Woodsmoke can harm the health of your family and your neighbors, especially children, the elderly and asthmatics. Woodstoves and fireplaces release far more pollution, indoors and out, than heaters and fireplaces using natural gas.
"In many areas of California, wood smoke significantly degrades air quality and visibility, and can be the biggest single source of pollution, especially on still winter days. In order to reduce air pollution, we encourage people to consider the many alternatives to heating their home with wood," said ARB Chairman, Alan Lloyd.
Burning wood produces air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. These pollutants are hazardous to the respiratory system. They can trigger asthma in sensitive individuals, and may cause chronic lung disease. Particulate matter can be especially dangerous since, when inhaled, it can penetrate deep into the lungs where it may remain for years. Wood smoke also contains substances such as benzene, formaldehyde and benzo-a-pyrene, which can contribute to the development of cancer and irritate the eyes and throat.
In its 1988 suggested control measure, the ARB recommends that if you must use your fireplace you switch to gas or install an insert for a cleaner, cheaper heat source. In addition, the ARB encourages you to take these steps to reduce wood smoke pollution:
- Replace your old woodstove with a new EPA certified model.
- Burn only clean, dry, seasoned wood, seasoned cordwood, or densified logs and fire-logs.
- Build small, hot fires instead of large smoldering ones.
- Keep your woodheater and chimney in top shape, have them inspected annually.
- Weatherize your house.
These and other suggestions are described in ARB's Woodburning Handbook, at /cap/handbooks/handbooks.htm or call (916) 327-7111.