Outdoor Wood Furnaces Pose Dangers to Neighbors, New Study Shows

Share Article

A new study by Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Inhalation Toxicology, reveals serious health dangers to neighbors living near outdoor wood furnaces.

Repeated episodes of exposure to particulates from wood-burning devices pose both cancer and asthma risks,” said David Brown, Sc.D., public health toxicologist with Environment and Human Health, Inc.

A new study by Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), just published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Inhalation Toxicology, reveals serious health dangers to neighbors living near outdoor wood furnaces (OWFs).

With winter coming and more people than ever heating with wood, this is the first peer-reviewed article to show that wood-smoke emissions from wood-burning devices pose dangers to families in neighboring homes.

“Careful studies show that pollutants in the air, including wood smoke, can cause asthma and certainly affect lung function in children,” said Philip Landrigan, M.D., Mount Sinai Hospital pediatrician, epidemiologist, and internationally recognized leader in public health. "They can also cause cardiac arrhythmias and increased deaths from acute heart attacks in adults, as well as sudden infant deaths.”

“Wood smoke particles are particularly dangerous because they are small and thus are inhaled deeply into the lungs,” said Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health, Inc. “The wood smoke particles contain many of the same harmful compounds found in cigarette smoke, and they are carcinogenic. It is estimated that an average outdoor wood furnace produces as many fine particulates per hour as 22 indoor wood stoves.”

Although some research articles have discussed air pollutants produced by wood burning in general, almost no information has been published about air pollutants produced by OWFs.

The study shows that homes neighboring an OWF had significantly higher particulate levels than control houses that were not near an OWF. A house as far away as 850 feet from an OWF had six times the levels of particulates as non-neighboring homes, and four times the EPA’s air-standard levels.

“Repeated episodes of exposure to particulates from wood-burning devices pose both cancer and asthma risks,” said David Brown, Sc.D., public health toxicologist with Environment and Human Health, Inc. “These risks exist whether people are exposed inside or outside of their homes. OWFs should be labeled with cancer and asthma warnings.”

According to the study, a house 240 feet away from an OWF had particulate levels 12 times the levels of non-neighboring houses, and eight times the levels of the EPA air standards.

These findings are particularly significant because they show that there are harmful levels of airborne particulates inside homes, even when an OWF is in compliance with current state regulations. For instance, in Connecticut an OWF must be 200 feet from the nearest property, while in many states the regulations call for a setback of only 100 feet, and in other states there are no setback regulations at all. The research study shows that none of the houses studied would be safe to live in, even when the neighboring OWF was in compliance with state regulations.

"Wood smoke is very harmful to lung function, and the American Lung Association has continually requested stronger wood smoke regulations and laws to protect people’s breathing and lung health," said Edward Miller, senior vice-president for public policy, American Lung Association of the Northeast.

The research study clearly shows that the current setback regulations for OWFs do not protect public health. The new peer-reviewed article concludes that without cleaner OWF technologies, homes should be switched to cleaner-burning fuels such as natural gas, heating oil, solar panels or a combination of cleaner technologies to better protect human health. It concludes that if particulate emissions from current OWFs cannot be significantly reduced, then banning them completely becomes an option to be considered.

"Governments, whether local, state or federal, have got to start regulating wood smoke emissions if the public's health is to be protected,” said EHHI’s Alderman.

Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), is a non-profit organization composed of physicians, public health professionals and policy experts, dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms through research, education and the promotion of sound public policy. EHHI does not receive any funds from businesses or corporations.

See an abstract of the article "Outdoor wood furnaces create significant indoor particulate pollution in neighboring homes" at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25144477

Share article on socal media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Jane Bradley

Nancy Alderman
Follow us on
Visit website