This section provides an overview of some common wood-burning devices, including certified wood stoves, and the pollution-related issues surrounding them.

All wood burning emits health-damaging particulates and toxins, even when it is done in a modern, certified device with dry wood.

Evidence shows that certified wood stoves are more polluting in real-world conditions than their laboratory-based certification values suggest. Certified wood stoves can also emit even higher levels of some carcinogens, such as dioxins and the PAH benzo(a)pyrene, as well as more ultrafine particles, than older stoves.

Changeouts that replace older polluting wood stoves with newer polluting stoves are not an effective way to improve air quality, no matter what the industry would like us to believe.

It is difficult to justify heating our homes with wood or solid fuel when alternatives exist. Changing attitudes, customs and habits will not be easy, but action needs to be taken.
G. Fuller. The Invisible Killer: The Rising Global Threat of Air Pollution—and How We Can Fight Back.

Traditional wood-burning fireplaces are not only highly polluting, they are also not an effective heat source, since they can cause warm air to be drawn out of the home.

Extremely polluting wood boilers are a serious problem in many areas, exposing nearby residents to shockingly high levels of air pollution.

Backyard fire pits, fireplaces, chimeneas and meat smokers are also becoming increasingly popular. These recreational devices emit large amounts of hazardous wood smoke pollution, exposing nearby neighbors to harm and reducing their quality of life.

For information on how much residential wood burning contributes to overall emissions in communities, see our Wood Smoke Is Particle Pollution page.