Residential wood smoke is caused by homeowners when they burn wood through fireplaces, wood stoves, chimneys or wood boilers (hydronic heaters). Wood smoke contains many small particulates that can be breathed in to your lungs and cause breathing problems. If you have a lung disease, it can make your lung disease worse.
How wood smoke hurts human health
Smoke is a complex mixture of gases and microscopic particles that can irritate eyes and airways, and may cause or aggravate respiratory illness and heart disease. In some rare cases, breathing smoke can cause death.
There are some situations where open burning may be necessary, such as controlled burning by professionals to prevent forest fires. Unfortunately, the smoke produced is a major source of air pollution and directly affects our quality of life.
Smoke from an open fire can seriously pollute your neighbourhood. This is especially true when burning takes place on calm days with no wind. The particles and gases produced can build to levels that are harmful for days. A haze may cover whole communities and reduce visibility. People often choose calm days for open burns because they are concerned about the fire spreading and blowing smoke into their neighbours' yards.
Closing doors and windows will not help. Smoke can easily waft through small cracks and holes, polluting your indoor air as well as the outdoor air.
Read about why wood smoke is an issue in Canada.
Naeher, L.P, Brauer, M., Lipsett, M., Zelikoff., Simson, C.D., Keonig, J.K and K.R Smith. 2007 Woodsmoke health effects: a review. Inhalation Toxicology. 19(1): 67-106.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2007. Health Effects of Burning Wood Smoke. Retrieved August 28, 2012, from US Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/pdf/woodsmoke_health_effects_jan07.pdf