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Health Effects of Wood Smoke

Smoke from fireplaces, wood stoves and backyard or land-clearing burn piles contain fine particle pollution, which is one of the most serious air quality problems. These fine particles (also called particulate matter or PM) are a mixture of solids and liquid droplets floating in the air. 
Particles of PM10 compared to human hair
The particles are so small they can be easily inhaled and become lodged deep into the lungs. Some of the health effects include:

  • asthma, emphysema and bronchitis,
  • heart attacks, strokes, and
  • premature death
Wood smoke also contains toxic air pollutants including benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known or suspected to cause cancer.

Everyone is affected by wood smoke, but people with asthma, respiratory or heart conditions, older adults and children are particularly at risk. Children are more susceptible to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing.

pm10, hair  and sand particals

What you can do if your neighbor's wood smoke is affecting your health

  • Talk to your neighbor first. State the problem, offer information about the impacts of wood smoke and ask for their cooperation.
  • Submit a complaint to DEQ. You may call the DEQ Complaints Hotline at 1-888-997-7888 to report a complaint and request DEQ send a letter to your neighbor. The letter refers to your complaint and asks the individual to reduce the smoke. The letter also explains why it's important to reduce smoke and offers reduction tips. DEQ does not include your name in the letter.  You may also submit an online complaint form.   

Relative emissions of fine particulate matter for various heating devices Relative Emissiona of fine particles: woodburning - highest annual pollution

emissions of fine particles

Infographic courtesy of pscleanair.org



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