Many of us can remember a time when we sat in front of a fire, enjoyed some friendly company and felt the warmth of the flickering flames. In large part due to the good memories associated with wood burning, it’s hard to believe that it can actually have a negative impact on our health and air quality. But the truth is, burning wood creates hazards and pollutes the air. Here are four facts about wood burning that might make you think twice before burning wood this winter season.

 

  1. Wood burning creates harmful particles

When you burn wood, you create microscopic pieces of pollution that can enter your blood stream and cause breathing or heart problems. While it might not look like a fire is emitting much, a single fireplace can release as much particulate pollution as 90 SUVs! Other health effects include coughing, headaches, eye and throat irritation, asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.

 

  1. Most pollution created from wood burning doesn’t go away

The tiny particulates created in wood smoke are so small that even doors and windows cannot keep them out. In fact, up to 70 percent of the wood smoke that exits a chimney actually re-enters nearby homes. It’s not unheard of for people to suffer severe breathing difficulties just because their neighbors regularly use a wood fireplace.

 

  1. Burning wood is incredibly inefficient

One wood-burning stove emits the same amount of pollution as 3,000 gas furnaces, while producing the same amount of heat as one gas furnace. In other words, with a gas furnace you’re getting just as much heat for significantly less pollution. There are simply more efficient ways to heat your home (even an electric space heater is more efficient).

 

  1. On bad air quality days, wood fires are not permitted

When the air quality in Utah is in the red or mandatory action zone, wood fires are against the law, with the only exception being households that use wood-burning stoves or fireplaces as their sole source of heat. A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t need to burn wood, don’t (especially on the red or mandatory action days).

So whether you’re used to burning wood all throughout the winter season, or just considering having a fire for the weekend, take a second to review the facts. If we reduce our wood burning habits this winter, we can enjoy a cleaner, healthier Utah. Sure, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but the less wood we burn, the better we can all breathe. Learn more at deq.utah.gov.

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