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Published on Dec 4, 2013
During cold weather, few things can be as cozy and attractive as lighting a wood fire in your home. Others rely on wood stoves and fireplaces as their primary heating method to deliver warmth throughout a house or room.
According to the EPA's Burn Wise program, there are approximately 29 million wood-burning fireplaces in the United States. Although fireplaces can provide warmth and ambiance, they can also create indoor air quality issues if the fireplace is not operating properly.
Combustion gases and particles can enter a home from a chimney and flue that has been improperly installed or maintained. Pollutants from fireplaces and wood stoves with no dedicated outdoor air supply can even be "back-drafted" from the chimney into the living space.
Smoke from a wood-burning fireplace may smell good, but it's not good for people. Wood smoke can affect everyone, but children, the elderly, and people with lung disease, including asthma and COPD or people with heart disease are the most vulnerable.
Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and particles that are produced when wood burns. A major health threat from smoke comes from fine particulate matter. These microscopic particles can get into people's eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems. Particulate matter can also create ghosting effects on walls and materials when it settles in a home. In addition to particle pollution, wood smoke can contain harmful air pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and other chemicals.
Carbon monoxide is another concern. This colorless, odorless gas interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. People exposed to carbon monoxide may experience a range of symptoms from headaches and dizziness to death at high concentrations.
People are encouraged to have a professional inspect and maintain their wood fireplaces and chimneys on an annual basis. Chimneys should also be regularly cleaned to remove creosote buildup as clean chimneys reduce the chance of a chimney fire.
These are just a few things to know about fireplaces and indoor air quality issues, to learn more about this or other health and safety, occupational or environmental issues, please visit the websites shown in the video.