Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is encouraging Connecticut residents to protect their health and that of their neighbors by limiting their exposure to pollution created from improperly burning wood. As temperatures continue to drop across Connecticut many homeowners are starting the first fires of the winter season, in their fireplaces or fire pits outdoors resulting in residential wood smoke.
Residential wood smoke, a complex mixture of gases and particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn, is a main contributor of fine particle pollution. It is responsible for poor air quality days in many areas across the state and can have severe health impacts.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that exposure to fine particle pollution resulting from wood smoke can lead to a variety of health effects particularly affecting those with lung disease, asthma, COPD, and heart disease. Children, teenagers, older adults, and new or expectant mothers may want to take precautions and limit their exposure to protect their health and the health of their babies.
According to EPA, particle pollution can trigger asthma attacks, impair lung development in children, increase symptoms of COPD and cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. For people with heart disease, particle pollution is linked to heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and stroke.
Because exposure to fine particle pollution from the burning of wood can lead to a variety of health effects, DEEP recommends the following “best burn” tips to protect your health and that of your family by reducing wood smoke pollution:
Not all wood is the same so it is essential that you burn dry, seasoned wood to reduce particle pollution. Softwoods such as Douglas fir need six months to dry and hardwoods such as oak need at least 12 months. Garbage, plastic, treated lumber, and driftwood should never be burned because they emit toxic fumes and particles.
Burning wet wood creates a lot of smoke and burns inefficiently, meaning the heat literally goes up in smoke. Buy an inexpensive moisture meter at a hardware store to test the wetness of your wood before burning. Wood should only be burned if the moisture content is 20 percent or less.
· Old wood stoves are bad polluters and less efficient than newer ones. Newer, EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts (wood stoves designed to fit into a fireplace), reduce air pollutants by 70 percent compared to older models. Additionally, EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts are up to 50 percent more energy efficient, use 1/3 less wood for the same heat, and reduce the risk of fire by reducing creosote build-up in chimneys.
For more information visit EPA’s Burn Wise webpage: epa.gov/burnwise