Science: Smoke Glossary

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ACUTE Having a quick start and relatively serious characteristics, as an acute illness.

AIR. A mixture of gases containing about 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and less than one percent carbon dioxide and other nonreactive gasses, with varying amounts of water vapor.

AIRSHED. The air supply of a given area defined by natural or topographic features, as well as by political or legal boundaries.

ALVEOLI. The numerous tiny air sacs at the end of the bronchioles in the lungs, where exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place across membranes with the blood.

ARTERIOSCLEROSIS. A chronic disease where thickening or hardening of the artery walls interferes with blood circulation.

ATMOSPHERE. The layer of air surrounding the Earth.

BACKDRAFTING. A downward flow of air into a fireplace or wood stove when outside air enters the exhaust opening. Most common in airtight dwellings where this becomes the only available source of combustion air, or when chimneys develop a creosote buildup, or when wood stoves are not properly installed.

BENZENE. A toxic chemical found in coal tar and used as an industrial solvent, as a gasoline additive, and in some paints or varnishes; a known carcinogen.

BRONCHIOLES. Small thin­walled branches of the bronchus, which branch further and lead to the tiny air sacs within the lungs.

BRONCHITIS. Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bronchial tubes.

BRONCHIOLlTIS. Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bronchioles.

BRONCHUS. Either of two primary/ranches of the trachea or other branches with cartilage in their walls, which lead to the bronchioles in the lungs.

CARBON MONOXIDE (CO). A colorless, odorless gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon containing substances, especially by gasoline­powered vehicles. It is one of the six major air pollutants for which there is a national air quality standard.

CARCINOGEN. A substance or activity that causes cancer.

CARCINOGENIC. Capable of causing cancer.

CARDIAC. Of, near, or relating to the heart.

CERTIFIED WOOD STOVE. Models certified as relatively clean burning by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency based on carbon monoxide and particulate matter emission testing at accredited laboratories.

CHRONIC Marked by long duration or frequent recurrence, such as a chronic disease.

CILIA. Hairlike cells that line the passageways to the lungs. The motion of cilia propels tiny dirt particles and germs out of the respiratory tract.

COMBUSTION. The process of burning. More specifically, when a substance reacts with oxygen to produce heat and often light.

EMISSIONS. Waste substances or pollutants discharged into the air from sources such as automobiles, power plants, or wood stoves.

EMPHYSEMA. A swelling of the tiny air sacs or alveoli in the lungs resulting from destruction of the membranes which line the inside of the air sacs­characterized by breathing difficulties and greater susceptibility to infections.

ENVIRONMENT. The aggregate of all outside conditions and influences affecting life, development, and survival of organisms.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA). The independent federal government agency established in 1970 that regulates environmental matters and oversees environmental law enforcement.


HYDROCARBONS. A large family of compounds containing hydrogen and carbon. Can include many organic compounds in various combinations. Wood and fossil fuels are composed mainly of hydrocarbons. Many are air pollutants and some are carcinogenic.

INDOOR­AIR POLLUTION. Air pollutants which are released inside buildings at concentrations often higher than in outdoor air. Common indoor air pollutants include radon, tobacco smoke, formaldehyde, and wood smoke.

INVERSIONS. An atmospheric condition occurring when a cool layer of air gets trapped below a layer of warm air and is unable to rise. This "ceiling" leads to a buildup of polluted air close to the ground and prevents vertical mixture and dispersion of smoke and other air pollutants.

LIFETIME CANCER RISK. The probability that someone will get cancer from a specific source at some time in their life.

LOWER RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTIONS (LRTIs) Infections deeper in the respiratory tract than the nose and throat, such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia which involve the bronchioles or lung.

MICRON. A unit of length 1/1,000,000 of a meter.


MUCOUS MEMBRANE The membrane lining all body channels that are exposed to air, such as the respiratory tract or the digestive tract. The glands of this membrane secrete mucus.

MUCUS. Organic compounds secreted by the mucous membrane, along with cells and inorganic salts suspended in water. This mixture acts as a lubricant and a protective coating.

MUTAGEN. An agent that causes biological mutation.

MUTATION. A change in the genes or chromosomes within the cells of living organisms.

MUTAGENICITY. A measure of the relative strength of different mutagens based on their ability to cause mutations.

NITROGEN OXIDES. Compounds of nitrogen and oxygen formed from high temperature burning. They contribute to acid rain and ozone formation. Nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) contribute to lung and respiratory health problems. Nitrogen dioxide is the most toxic and is one of the six major air pollutants for which there is a national air quality standard.

ORGANIC Concerning, related to, or derived from living organisms; in chemistry, a carbon containing compound.

OZONE (O3). A form of oxygen consisting of three oxygen atoms per molecule. Ozone is a pungent, colorless, toxic gas that is a major component of smog. It is formed from nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight and heat. Ozone is one of six major air pollutants for which there is a national air quality standard.

PARTICULATE MATTER (PM). Small particles of solid and liquid matter found in the atmosphere including soot, dust, organic matter, smoke, or smog.

PM2.5: Particulate matter that measures 2.5 microns in diameter or less. New research indicates that soot in this respirable size is especially deadly. They are so small that they can be circulated in the blood stream. These particles carry viable mold, virus and bacteria, that can be inhaled into human (mammalian) lungs. When you breathe wood smoke, it can be detected in your urine the next day. They can even tell what kind of wood was burned. (In other words: wood smoke circulates through your entire body, some of it is excreted, some can remain in the lung.)

PM10. Particulate matter that measures ten microns in diameter or less. One of six major air pollutants for which there is a national air quality standard.

PNEUMONIA. An acute or chronic disease caused by bacteria, viruses, or particulate matter and chemical agents characterized by inflammation of the lung tissue.

PULMONARY. Of or relating to the lungs.

PYROMANIA - Mental disorder #312.33 impulse control disorder (as listed in the diagnostic and statistic manual :P. 325 deliberate and purposeful pleasure arousal and gratification relief on starting fire. Not for financial gain or to express anger. Can be indifferent to the consequence or derive pleasure from the results. There is a male predominance in the disorder.)

RADON. A colorless, odorless radioactive gas formed by the decay of uranium, found in rocks and soil.

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM. The body's system for breathing, including the nose, throat, and lungs.

SINUS. Any of the air­filled cavities in the skull connected to the nostrils or external openings of the nose.

SINUSITIS. Inflammation of a sinus membrane, especially in the nasal or nose region.

SMOG. Air pollution consisting of fog mixed with smoke and or ozone, also called haze, or, in Los Angeles, smog ozone.

SLASH BURNING. The burning of woody debris left over from logging or land clearing operations.

STAGNATION. Lack of motion in a mass of air or water which tends to hold pollutants in place.

TOXIC Poisonous, carcinogenic, or directly harmful to life.

TRACHEA. A passage through which air passes to and from the lungs.

VOLATILE. Unstable substances that evaporate rapidly at normal temperatures, such as benzene or gasoline.

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