2012 Dec. 27: EPA on Wood Smoke

Consumers –       Health Effects

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Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you. Wood smoke can affect everyone, but children under 18, older adults, people with diabetes, heart disease, asthma or other lung diseases are the most vulnerable.

Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine  particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn. A major  health  threat from smoke comes from fine particles (also called particle pollution, particulate  matter, or PM). These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and  respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes,  runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis.

How Fine Particles  Can Affect Your Health

Particle exposure can lead to a variety of health effects. For  example, numerous studies link particle levels to increased hospital admissions  and emergency room visits—and even to death from heart or lung diseases. Both  long- and short-term particle exposures have been linked to health problems.  For a more complete discussion of wood smoke health effects research see Health Effects of Breathing Wood Smoke (PDF) (5pp,  58k, About PDF)

Long-term exposures, such as those experienced by people  living for many years in areas with high particle levels, have been associated  with problems such as reduced lung function and the development of chronic  bronchitis—and even premature death.

Short-term exposures to  particles (hours or days) can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks  and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory  infections. To learn more about asthma, visit www.epa.gov/asthma, www.noattacks.org Exit EPA disclaimer or www.cdc.gov/asthma.

Protect Yourself!

Follow the guidelines we have provided in this Web site for  using your wood-burning appliance efficiently and safely. It’s important to  limit your exposure to smoke—especially if you are more susceptible than  others:

  • If you       have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina,       chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or asthma, you may       experience health effects earlier and at lower smoke levels than healthy       people.
  • Older       adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are       more likely to have chronic heart or lung diseases than younger people.
  • Children       also are more susceptible to smoke for several reasons: their respiratory       systems are still developing; they breathe more air (and air pollution)       per pound of body weight than adults; and they’re more likely to be active       outdoors.

For additional information on the health effects of wood  smoke, visit the AirNow Web site

Also, the state of Washington’s  Department of Ecology has published a useful booklet entitled, Health Effects of Wood Smoke (PDF)  (15pp, 206k, About PDF) Exit EPA disclaimer

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