Wood burning and your health

Brochure: Wood Stoves and Your Health

If you have to burn, burn smart! Burning wood releases harmful pollutants into the air we breathe. To help lessen these pollutants, here are some smart burning tips.

Smart Burning Tips  
Burn Smart Tips 1 to 4 Preparing Your Wood
Burn Smart Tips 5 to 8 Burning Wood
Burn Smart Tips 9 to 12 Never Burn…
Burn Smart Tips 13 to 21 Maintaining Your Wood Stove and Home
Burn Smart Tips 22 Buying a Wood Stove
Burn Smart Tips 23 to 29 Open Burning

Preparing Your Wood

Tip #1
Burn dry, seasoned hardwood. Burning “green” or wet wood produces significantly more smoke. Firewood should be seasoned for at least six months. Burning seasoned wood also saves money by reducing your wood consumption by 25 percent. Properly seasoned wood permits more heat and less smoke.

Tip #2
Split wood into pieces that are 10-15cm (4-6in) in diameter. Fires burn better with more wood surface area exposed to the flame.

The general rule is that your wood is three inches shorter than the firebox width or length. The smaller it is, the quicker the wood will dry.

Tip #3
Cut, split and stack the wood in early spring and store it sheltered from the rain.

Tip #4
Store wood outside, off the ground and covered. Bring it into your home in small amounts as needed. Green wood stored indoors can increase humidity and lead to mould growth, which may trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

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Burning Wood

Tip #5
Use small pieces of wood kindling and newspaper to start your fire. Add larger pieces of wood as required.

Tip #6
Burn small, hot fires – they produce much less smoke than ones that are left to smoulder.

Tip #7
Open the stove or fireplace damper to increase air circulation and improve burning. When you see smoke, it’s a sign of oxygen starvation and incomplete burning.

Tip #8
Do not dampen or hold your fire overnight. This creates excessive emissions and promotes the formation of creosote.

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Never Burn…

Tip #9
Never burn garbage, plastics, cardboard or Styrofoam. Burning garbage releases poisons.

Tip #10
Never burn wood that has been taken from salt water. Chlorine combines with the smoke to produce dioxins and furans, which are dangerous carcinogens.

Tip #11
Never burn pressure-treated or painted wood, particleboard or plywood. Wood treated with varnishes and sealants, or sprayed with pesticides, contain toxic chemicals.

Tip #12
Never burn during a burn ban. Burn bans are announced by local radio and television stations and on the weather page of the newspaper. The Department of Ecology and your local air pollution control authorities have burn ban/wood smoke information.

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Maintaining Your Wood Stove & Your Home

Tip #13
Have your wood-burning appliance inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a technician certified under WETBC (Wood Energy Technicians of BC).

Tip #14
Burn only 100% untreated wood or manufactured fireplace logs. Avoid burning other materials such as colored paper, plastics, rubber, trash and treated wood products that give off harmful chemicals, more pollution, and less heat.

Tip #15
Purchase wood early in the year and allow it to dry thoroughly--at least six months--in a covered place before you burn it.

Tip #16
Keep your fire small and give it plenty of air. Don't stuff your stove or leave it burning unattended.

Tip #17
Upgrade to an Environmental Protection Agency –certified woodstove or other clean burning technology. If your wood stove was manufactured before July 1988, it should be replaced. Investigate a natural gas, certified wood or pellet stove, or an electric, natural gas, propane, or oil furnace.

A clean-burning stove emits far less particle pollution – 70 percent less, on average – than an older, less-efficient stove (or a fireplace insert). They also use approximately 30 percent less wood.

Tip #18
Be a weather watcher. When the air is still, temperature inversions trap wood smoke and other pollutants close to the ground. Avoid using your wood stove or fireplace on hazy or foggy, windless days and nights.

Tip #19
Keep your stove pipe and chimney clean. Empty ashes from your wood stove and fireplaces frequently.

Tip #20
Install a Carbon Monoxide detector in your home and attached garage to monitor CO levels.

Tip #21
Reduce your heating needs by making your house more energy efficient.


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Buying a Wood Stove?

Tip #22
Consider a high-efficiency wood stove, fireplace or insert that is certified as CSA B-415 or US EPA certified, and have it professionally installed. High-efficiency wood-burning appliances can cut emissions by up to 90 percent and burn up to a third less

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Open Burning

Tip #23
Never burn garbage or prohibited materials such as plastic, treated wood, newspapers, junk mail, and tires.

Tip #24
Burn only during good venting conditions.

Tip #25
Burn only dry, seasoned organic materials.

Tip #26
Never burn garbage or wet yard trimmings such as leaves or branches.

TIp #27
Burn small, hot, and controlled fires with good air ventilation.

Tip #28
Never start a fire late in the afternoon – smoke tends to settle near the ground as the air cools at night.

Tip #29
Do not start fires with diesel or other fuel.

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