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Wood Smoke

PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 12:13 pm
by Wilberforce

Wood Smoke

I know wood heat is close to your heart. Burning wood for heat is a practice you regularly promote and defend.

We all seek out facts and perceived rational explanations for what we want to believe.

• Natural gas produces 1% of the particulate emissions that wood does. 28 pounds per million BTUs for wood vs .28 pounds per million BTUs for gas.

• If you don’t live in a forest wood must be acquired from somewhere, using up more energy.

• Trees take a long time to grow; forests all over the globe are being cleared; unfortunate people in the 3rd world travel farther and farther from home to gather the remaining trees and bushes.

• Along with the unpleasantness of smoke on our fellow citizens, burning wood unleashes a number of toxins.

• Saying if everybody burned in the best way things would be good is like saying if everyone drove a Prius everything would be fine. Not gonna happen.

I believe we do not change people’s minds. However, I direct your attention to these two short articles: ... green.html

Thomas Johnson, Guerneville

source ... nuary-2018



Bob Beyfuss: Think about the longterm health effects of wood smoke

You know it has been a rough winter already when a 30-degree day feels like a heat wave and you want to put shorts on and run around the back yard!

Last week I wrote about the burning characteristics of certain types of firewood. I may have put a rather romantic spin on this practice. This week I will add to the topic with some of my own experiences that may offer a different bit of perspective.

I bought my first woodstove in 1973 when OPEC (Organization of Oil Exporting Countries) severely restricted sales of middle-east oil to the United States. At that time the U.S. was importing nearly 90 percent of its oil from Arab nations in the middle East. This embargo was in response to the Yom Kippur war between Egypt and Israel in which the U.S. sided with Israel. The immediate response was a huge price increase and shortage of gasoline, home heating oil and other petroleum products. I was working at a gas station in Catskill at the time and the trauma of dealing with some seriously angry people demanding more than the $3 worth of gas my boss decided to limit sales to, was a horrible experience. The price of fuel oil quadrupled to $1.40 a gallon from 35 cents and I could not afford to heat my house.

I bought a $200 Ashley woodstove, installed it myself and began to burn firewood. I could not afford a chainsaw so I started out trying to cut all the wood I needed by hand, with a bow saw. It was a formidable task that soon proved to be almost impossible. Since I owned an old pickup truck at the time, I teamed up with a friend who owned a chainsaw and we began to cut and sell firewood. I had previously thought that my first “career” as a farrier was the hardest work imaginable, but I learned that making firewood was equally demanding.

Nevertheless, burning wood seemed like a very patriotic thing to do at the time and even after the embargo ended, the price of oil remained sky high, so I continued to use wood as my primary home heating fuel from 1973 until 2014, more than 40 years.

I took great pleasure in being self-sufficient and not have to rely on “fossil fuel” as my friend Lester referred to oil or gas.

In retrospect, it was probably not a good choice. Although I enjoyed the challenge and the physical exercise that making firewood involved, today I wonder about the effects on my lungs and heart of breathing wood smoke fumes for all those years. I told myself that I was saving huge amounts of money every winter, but when I consider the actual true costs of wood burning, I am not so sure now.

My original woodstove cost about $300 all told with the chimney pipe, but it was an unsafe hookup and I was lucky on more than one occasion to have survived a chimney fire. Many other local people were not so fortunate. It seemed that almost every really cold night, there was a chimney fire somewhere local and many, many people lost their homes. There was practically an epidemic of woodstove-caused fires throughout our region.

One of the first projects I did when I was hired by Cornell Cooperative Extension in 1976, was to produce an educational video entitled “Burning Wood Safely”. I like to think that amateurish video may have been the most important thing I did in my career.

Since I have lived in very rural areas all these past years, I was never concerned about the effects on my health of breathing the fumes of wood smoke from other people’s stoves, but today in suburban areas, there is a serious issue from wood burning.

Today, in some suburban communities, the smell and fumes of wood smoke present a serious hazard to people’s health. Of course the risk of chimney fires remains, but the long-term consequences of breathing smoke may be even more deadly. What seems to make sense in one situation, as in my case in rural Durham, may be a very bad idea elsewhere, such as the suburbs of Kingston. I certainly am not a fan of regulations in general, but I would favor restrictions on using woodstoves in more densely populated areas, where too many people are subjected to the pollution caused by wood smoke.

As a society, we have gone to great lengths to protect our citizens, particularly our children, from the hazards of second-hand smoke, yet I have seen kids waiting for the school bus breathing air that is seriously contaminated by wood smoke. If you are considering purchasing a woodstove and you live in a suburban area, think twice about it. Please.

Bob Beyfuss lives and gardens in Schoharie County. Send him an e-mail to

source ... /180119887