Science: Wood Stoves: Can They Be Clean?

Are 'old' wood stoves the culprit for the killer winter air we are suffering from in the 21st Century?

From the Hearth, Patio, Barbeque Association: Industry: "It is recognized that a measurable part of the current problem in air emissions is from wood burning."  ... "The market for hearth products is huge, and mainly untapped. With the help of the EPA, the time may be right to dramatically increase the level of hearth product sales. "the market place is wide open."  Enormous Opportunity, by James E. Houck and Carter Keithley, September 2004 issue of Hearth and Home, a marketing publication for the industry.

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 dioxin, carcinogens, PAH, and PCBs. There is no safe level of these toxins. If you burn wood in any device you will pollute your air. It is simple: protect your health by choosing a cleaner fuel.

10/20/06: EPA Report-Stove Deterioration showing that certified wood stoves deteriorate over time.

Wood stoves emit more dangerous chemicals than fireplaces.

Even as the tobacco industry was subsidized by the  United States government, the US EPA and local governments are aggressively helping to market new wood stoves by supporting wood stove changeout programs, subsidizing monitoring, linking from the EPA website to the Hearth, Patio, Barbeque website and are now even proposing EPA 'green tags' for wood burning devices. Given that wood smoke from a small portion of wood burners (new and old) infect the air for everyone it is an odd choice. According to government and industry research, wood burners as a whole are not in the lowest income levels, nor are they part of an ethnic minority that perhaps needs a subsidy, By encouraging the prerogative to burn wood as if it were a necessity, it creates a laisez-faire attitude toward wood smoke altogether.

What is going on here? "From the EPA website: The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people." How do you sell more and more wood burning appliances to clean up the air?


Old Pot Bellied Wood Stove

New wood stoves will solve the problem. True or False? All solid fuel burning pollutes the air, even in the new wood stoves.  A better choice would be a gas or propane burning model.

Is heating with wood a 'green' activity? In addition to the horrendous and well documented health effects, soot is produced from even the touted 'clean stoves'. Soot is implicated in causing drought and global warming.


Fire Place insert

In addition to producing fine particulate pollution (PM2.5), stoves and fireplaces burning wood and coal produce Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), Dioxin and PCBs.


Free Standing Wood Stove: looks like a mess in the house as well as the air.

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