person putting log on fireplaceWood heating appliances (wood stoves, boilers or furnaces) can create dense smoke for hours at a time. Whether smoke is visible or not, it contains:

  • Fine Particles (PM2.5)
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Ozone
  • Nitrous Oxides
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Local ordinances may control the use of wood heating appliances.

Health Risks from Wood Smoke Pollution

Your chances of having health effects from smoke exposure depends on the concentration of air pollutants and how long you are exposed to them.

  • Breathing wood smoke is a health risk. Children, the elderly, and people with asthma, heart disease and other respiratory illnesses are at higher risk.
  • Exposure to fine particles in wood smoke can create breathing or cardiovascular problems, or make them worse.
  • If your wood burner has a short stack, or it is close to your home, it is more likely to create health hazards for you and your neighbors.

Toxic gases and fine particles in wood smoke are so small that they can penetrate into homes, even when windows and doors are closed.

Reducing Wood Smoke Pollution

If you are a homeowner with a wood heating appliance, like a wood stove or fireplace insert:

  • Only use if it is EPA approved.
  • Only burn dry wood. Never burn treated lumber, trash or recyclables.
  • Preheat your firebox with a small hot kindling fire, before loading with wood.
  • Open the damper before opening the stove to minimize smoke in your home.
  • Extend your chimney or stack above the roofline of your house and your neighbor's house.
  • Watch the wind and weather - burn when smoke dispersal is away from buildings.
  • If you or your neighbors still experience smoke odors, switch to a natural gas burner.
Graphic showing proper chimney height
Stack height should always be above the roof line of neighboring buildings to ensure good smoke dispersal.

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