Science: Carcinogenic Chemicals from Wood and Coal Stoves

Carcinogenic Chemicals from Wood and Coal Stoves: to compare carcinogens produced by a fireplace, a coal stove and a wood stove (Zeedijk, 1985).Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarcarbon emissions from woodstoves vs open fires and enclosed coal stoves was also investigated by: I H Zeedikj (1985). Polycyclic armomatic hydrocarbon concentrations in smoke aerosol of domestic stoves burning wood and coal. Eindhoven University of Technology, Dept. Chemical Engineering, Laboratory of Instrumental Analysis, PO Box 153, The Netherlands.

In addition to producing fine particulate pollution, stoves and fireplaces burning wood and coal produce Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). PAH are known to cause cancer.

It is the way that you burn wood and what wood you burn that effects the composition and volume of the smoke. A fireplace has an excess of air and oxygen. A wood stove or coal stove is air (oxygen) starved. This design (dating from Ben Franklin) causes the wood stove to produce more energy but also more carcinogens, PAH.

Carcinogenic Chemicals from Wood and Coal

*The CO is on a different scale. Note the CO figure for wood stoves is in grams/kilogram. (Larson and Koenig report CO as 80-370 g/kg of wood.)

Newer airtight wood stoves keep more of the carcinogens out of the burners living space, however they deliver more carcinogens to the burners neighbors. One wood stove in one hour, produces approximately 4,300 times more PAH than thirty cigarettes (Larson, 1993) (Ott, 1999). Burning two cords (a cord of wood is a pile which measures 8 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet.) of wood produces the same amount of mutagenic particles as driving 13 gasoline powered cars 10,000 miles @ 20 miles per gallon (Lewtas, 1991).
In the San Francisco Bay Area a winter trend of increased mutagenic activity in tested air samples was spotted in the early 1980's. Winter samples were three to nine times more mutagenic than during other seasons. Cleaner cars helped lower the PAH but not the overall mutagenicity of the winter air (Flessel, 1991).

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