Wood smoke is one of winter’s most distinctive smells – but while smoke may smell good, it’s not good for you. Smoke from wood fires contains a mixture of gases and tiny particles of ash, soot and wood tar. Particles that are less than 2.5 microns in size – 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair – can get into the eyes and lungs, causing health problems. Everyone can be affected by wood smoke, but children, the elderly and people with lung disease, heart disease, asthma and diabetes are the most vulnerable.
Viewer Tip: If you build a wood fire at home, try these “best burn practices” to minimize smoke and maximize warmth:
- Burn seasoned wood. Wood should be seasoned outside for at least six months before burning. Seasoned wood looks darker and sounds hollow when smacked against another piece of wood.
- Maintain air flow by regularly removing ashes from your wood burning stove or fireplace. Store them outside in a metal, covered container.
- Never burn garbage, cardboard, plastics, coated or pressure-treated wood, painted wood, plywood, particle board, or wet, moldy, rotting or diseased wood.
EPA’s Burn Wise program provides more tips for burning safely and choosing efficient wood-burning appliances: www.epa.gov/burnwise/
Seasons: Fall, Winter
(Sources: EPA Burn Wise, www.epa.gov/burnwise/; U.S. EPA AIRNow Program, www.airnow.gov)