Ten Quick Facts About Wood Smoke Pollution
- Wood smoke is air pollution.
Wood smoke is a potent source of fine and ultrafine particles and toxic chemical compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, benzene, and formaldehyde that have been linked to cancer and birth defects.
- There is no evidence for a “safe” level of air pollution.
Particle pollution has been linked in many studies with serious health effects, and even premature deaths, at levels that are below current regulatory guidelines. Even short-term exposure has been shown to have effects.
- Because wood smoke is emitted in, and close to, people’s homes, the potential to cause harm is greater than from other pollutants that are emitted further away.
When a source of air pollution is closer to where people live and spend their time, as it is with residential wood burning, the exposure is greater and more of the pollutant is inhaled.
- Neighbors of wood burners can be exposed to air pollution levels 100 times higher than what regional air monitoring indicates for a community.
Wood burning creates intense localized air pollution hotspots that are not reflected by regulatory community air monitoring.
- Wood burning is also a surprisingly large contributor to overall community pollution levels.
In many communities, residential wood burning is responsible for more fine particle air pollution than traffic.
- You don’t have to see wood smoke to be harmed by it.
The smallest and most harmful particles, which are numerous in wood smoke, are invisible to the naked eye. Just because you don’t see visible smoke doesn’t mean that you’re not being harmed by it.
- Wood smoke is not just a problem for people with lung conditions such as asthma.
Wood smoke particles enter the bloodstream and can reach any organ in the body.
- Wood burning contributes to the climate crisis.
Per unit of heat or electricity produced, burning wood emits more CO2 than coal, oil, or gas. Wood burning is also a significant source of short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon, brown carbon, and methane.
- Certified wood stoves are not the solution the wood burning industry claims.
Wood stove certification testing numbers do not reflect how much wood stoves actually emit in real life once inside people’s homes. Even a perfectly operated certified wood stove burning dry wood is far more polluting than a non-wood-burning heat source.
- When fewer people heat with wood, the death rate goes down.
When the city of Launceston in Australia encouraged residents to switch from wood stoves to electric heating, wintertime deaths from respiratory disease dropped by 28%, and from cardiovascular disease by 20%. Over the course of the year, the death rate went down by 11.4%.