Inhaling Wood-burning Smoke Dangerous?

Q. We just moved into a new home with a wood-burning fireplace. Could this be a problem for my son’s asthma and allergies?

A. Breathing in wood smoke may have serious adverse health effects, especially in asthmatics. Smoke from wood-burning stoves/fireplaces contains a mixture of gases, toxic agents and “particle pollution,” which can negatively affect the lungs. Particles less than 10 micrometers in size can become deposited into the lungs causing shortness of breath and asthma attacks. Other emissions that result from wood smoke include: 1) nitrogen dioxide, which may irritate the eyes, nose, throat and cause shortness of breath; 2) carbon monoxide, which may cause headaches /dizziness; and 3) potentially toxic compounds such as formaldehyde and benzene. One medical school ‘s safe-use guidelines include:

  • Use an EPA approved fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Don’t allow those with respiratory conditions to be exposed to a fireplace/wood-stove for too long.
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation to offset any smoke that is emitted. (i.e. Crack windows open.)
  • Don’t use a chemical accelerant, like lighter fluid, to ignite the fire.
  • Properly maintain your fireplace or wood stove and have your chimney cleaned annually.
  • After the fireplace/stove has been used, air out the room; then dust and vacuum thoroughly.
  • Don’t use a fireplace/wood-burning stove as the only source of heat.

Susan P. Raschal, D.O.

Diplomate American Board of Allergy & Immunology

Covenant Allergy & Asthma Care

1350 Mackey Branch Drive, #114

Chattanooga, TN 37421

(423) 468-3267


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