Burning Issues

What Are the Medical Effects of Exposure to Smoke Particles?

"To summarize bluntly, any increase in fine particles in the atmosphere kills someone. The victims remain nameless, but they have been deprived of life all the same." (Montague, 1994)

Particulate pollution is the most important contaminant in our air. ...we know that when particle levels go up, people die.

A number of studies also show changes in inflammatory markers in the blood, which are risk factors for heart attack." (Joel Schwartz, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health, E Magazine, Sept./Oct. 2002)

"Biomass (wood) smoke is composed of a relatively equal mixture of coarse and ultrafine particles and can penetrate deeply into the lung, producing a variety of morphologic and biochemical changes," said Dr. Ramírez-Venegas. ( Public Health News : Article Date: 20 Feb 2006 - 2:00am (UK) )

"Air pollutants can also cause immune suppression or overstimulate the immune response, which can lead to allergies and immune-mediated diseases. Air pollutants have also been linked to psychological disorders and toxic damage to the nervous system and the brain, especially in developing fetuses or young children. In addition, the report points out that air pollutants are thought to have detrimental effects on the reproductive and endocrine systems, but according to the conference summary, these effects require more research to be fully understood. The report points out that certain populations, including children, the elderly, and minorities, are at a higher risk of being affected by air pollutants (American Medical Association, 1995)."

Air Pollution Found To Pose Greater Danger To Health Than Earlier Thought Date: 9/21/05, LOS ANGELES (Sept. 20)-Experts may be significantly underestimating air pollution's role in causing early death, according to a team of American and Canadian researchers, who studied two decades' worth of data on residents of the Los Angeles metro area.

(Click on Blue to go to further research. Scroll down, it is long page.)


Smoke equals ultra fine particulates. Much of the following research pertains to all fine particulates (also known as PM2.5). PM2.5 is primarily created by combustion.

Meet Your Body : An introduction to how wood smoke hurts your health.

Wood Smoke is More Damaging than Tobacco Smoke.

Mechanisms of Disease and the Healthy Cardiovascular System.

Center for Disease Control (CDC)Populations at Risk from Particulate Air Pollution -- United States, 1992 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00030615.htm

"Particles are tiny, but damage can be great" NYTimes SCIENCE DESK October 30, 2001 By James Glanz, PDF (size 8 KB) 1671 words

Smoke Related Death and Disease:

Wood Smoke Causes Significant DNA Damage

EPA picture simulating how Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, (PAH) adhere to DNA ( see the white patch).

In February of 1995 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission received a report on indoor carcinogenic pollutant emissions from EPA Phase II Wood Stoves: Normalizing for the rate of wood consumption during each test, the average Benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) source strength is 32 ng/kg of wood burned. The average Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) source strength is 360 ng/kg of wood. This is the exposure on average to the user. The neighbor of course gets the brunt of wood smoke pollution. (NISTIR 5575) U.S. Department of Commerce.

Wood smoke particle taken from a human lung enlarged. Original picture size 3 7/8 " by 3 3/8" at 900x enlargement. Chest p.1232. Interstitial Lung Disease and Domestic Wood Burning, Ramage, Roggli, Bell and Piantadosi.

Cell Damage April 7, 2003, Los Angeles Times

Coal Smoke Causes Genetic Mutation

Particulate Mortality Table, Health Effects Institute, 2000

MEDICAL ABSTRACTS. The FREE PUBMED SITE , search for " wood smoke". It will give you a current 243 or more abstracts. Or see an older completed search here with out leaving the site.Wood Smoke Health Effects Pubmed Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography on Acute Respiratory Infections and Indoor Air Pollution with Emphasis on Children Under 5 in Developing Countries

The American Lung Association has published an annotated bibliography of recent studies of the health effects of air pollution. The bibliography summarizes several dozen studies published from mid-2001 to mid-2002 in peer-reviewed journals. The new studies link air pollution with lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, congenital heart defects, asthma, and even brain damage. They identify diabetics, asthma patients, those with congestive heart failure, and children who play outdoors as being at increased risk. The recent research elucidates several pathways to explain the effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system. The bibliography is available as a PDF file download (276 K)

American Lung Association Review of Recent 2001 Research on Health Effects of Particulate Matter. PDF (92K)

A murine [mouse] model of smoke inhalation. Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, University of Cincinnati Medical Center

Mice exposed to wood smoke demonstrated more dramatic pathology than mice exposed to cotton or polyurethane smoke. A CD-1 model of wood smoke exposure was developed, demonstrating type II cell hypertrophy, cytoplasmic blebbing, cytoplasmicvacuolization, sloughing, hemorrhage, edema, macrophage infiltration, and lymphocyte infiltration. The bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of smoke-exposed mice demonstrated a significant increase in total cell counts compared with those in control mice. These findings are comparable to the lung tissue response observed in human victims of smoke inhalation.


"About 17 million Americans have Asthma. Smoke can trigger asthma. Get rid of wood burning stoves and fireplaces." Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, Parade Magazine, "When You Can't Breathe," March 25, 2001

Update 2004 from the American Lung Association: 20 million Americans have asthma or 1 in every 14 people. In some Northern California counties it is 1 in every 10 people.

"If I were someone who had a health problem like asthma, and I were looking for things to prevent aggravating (my) respiratory problems, candles and incense are two things I would seriously consider getting rid of." Michael Osborne of the EPA.

Respiratory Tract Inflammation and Mucous Cell Hyperplasia from Repeated Exposure to Wood Smoke (study outline).

Asthma leads to Heart Disease

Food cooked over wood can cause immediate sensitivity reactions in allergic individuals.

Air Pollution contributes to preventable illness and death.

Reactive Airway Disease (RADS)


Wood smoke may raise lung cancer risk, Chest, July 2005. "... our findings demonstrate that wood smoke could produce similar effects on p53, phospho-p53, and MDM2 protein expression as tobacco.… It is important to consider wood smoke exposure as a possible risk factor for the development of lung cancer in nonsmoker subjects."

Wood stoves linked to Mouth Cancer

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure from Wood Burning And Traffic

Toxins from wood smoke inhalation sit in the bladder and can cause cancer of the bladder. Measurement of Urinary Methoxyphenols and Their Use for Biological Monitoring of Wood Smoke Exposure.

JAMA Abstract : Lung Cancer, Cardiopulmonary Mortality, and Long-term Exposure to Fine Particulate Air Pollution.

Wood Stoves linked to Pet Cancer

Report on Charbroiling Meat and Cancer Links Effects

Contagious Disease

Wood Smoke exposure is a risk factor for Meningococcal Meningitis.

"Exposure to smoke from cooking fires or close contact with a case puts people at risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis. "

COPD: Thanks to COPD Resource Network for their artwork.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is on the rise. It is up 163% since 1965. It is one of the more important diseases related to particulate pollution. This report stresses the importance of COPD but does not make any connection with wood smoke. ... COPD is a disease characterized by a progressive airflow limitations caused by an abnormal inflammatory reaction to the chronic inhalation of particles. ... The rise of both wood burning smoke and COPD since 1965 could be correlated. Is anyone looking into it? Info about COPD Resource Network, including support pages.(Off Site)

Wood Stove Pollution Can Cause Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Public Health News : Article Date: 20 Feb 2006 - 2:00am (UK) (Off Site) " "Biomass (wood) smoke is composed of a relatively equal mixture of coarse and ultrafine particles and can penetrate deeply into the lung, producing a variety of morphologic and biochemical changes," said Dr. Ramírez-Venegas."

Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis (COPD) (Off Site)

Heart Disease

Heart attacks are linked to smoke particles.

Heart Myocardial Infarction

UK: Report On Cardiovascular Disease And Air Pollution "-- That the inhalation of particles found in the air causes chemical reactions in the body to take place which increase the likelihood of blood to clot and/or atheromatous plaque to rupture, leading to heart attack.-- That particles subtly affect the control of the heart's rhythm. "

Effects of Concentrated Ambient Particles on the Cardiac and Pulmonary Systems of Dogs.

Atherosclerosis Study shows passive tobacco smoke. The authors concluded that the decrease in CFVR following passive smoking may be the result of endothelial dysfunction of the coronary circulation, an early process of atherosclerosis, and may explain, at least in part, why passive smoking is a risk for cardiac disease in nonsmokers. [Ed. Wood smoke has similar chemicals and causes the same effects.]

High Blood Pressure linked to fine particulate exposure.


Fine smoke particles (PM10) may increase stroke risk. American Heart Association: 2003-10-10

Immune Disease

Wood Smoke Emissions
Effects on Host Pulmonary Immune Defense, Judith T. Zelikoff, Ph.D. In a laboratory study at NewYork University, animals exposed to wood smoke immediately had a 25% decrease in the lungs' ability to clear bacteria, and after just 1.5 to 2.5 hours, had decreases of 23% to 61% in lung function.

Wood smoke may be a risk factor for Sarcoidosis.

Joint Disease

Lung Disease

Rise In Pneumonia Hospitalization Rates For Older Adults, USA Asthma/Respiratory News Article Date: 07 Dec 2005 - "There has been a 20% increase since 1988 - this coincides with the EPA Clean Wood Stove Campaign." Ed.

Diffuse Infiltrative Lung Disease Including Selected Pneumoconioses (PDF) (size 39 KB) and seeDiffuse infiltrative lung disease for great slides and pictures by Ed Uthman, MD (uthman@neosoft.com), Diplomate, American Board of Pathology.

Responses to Smoke Inhalation New reports on how cells are injured by smoke inhalation.

Pollution Causes Lung Changes in Children, Associated Press, Chicago Nov. 29, 2001 

Effects of Subchronic Exposure to Wood Smoke on the Respiratory Tract of Rats

Smoke from the burning of the straw residues from Kentucky grass seed fields contains at least two different types of organic compounds, i.e. the phenolic compounds and the PAHs. The phenols appear to be present in much higher concentrations than the PAHs. In the short-term, inhalation of this smoke, from MSDS toxicity data, would appear that these relatively volatile phenolic compounds are likely to cause acute irritation of the mucous membranes of the lungs as well as eye and skin irritation. Further, the long-term carcinogenic effects due to exposure to the PAHs could be expected.

Symptoms of Lung Disease: Finger Clubbing (scroll down to bottom of page-Merc Manual )

Children's Health

Air Pollution Especially Harmful To Lungs Of Obese Children, Source: American Thoracic Society, Posted: May 25, 2004

Air Pollution Causes Lung Disease In School-Age Children

Children Inhale Higher Percentage Of Pollution, New Research Shows

Lungs Develop Better In Kids Who Move Away From Pollution

University of Massachusetts: Lowell Report on Childhood Cancers


Ear Disease (Otitis Media)

Eyes: Wood Smoke Damage to the Eyes: Cataracts

Children Short Term and Long Term Health Effects From Wood Smoke.

Bio Fuels Linked With Lower Birth Weight.

Smog Hurts Boys and Girls Differently

Pollution Causes Lung Changes in Children, Associated Press, Chicago Nov. 29, 2001 

Lead and Delinquency

Mental Retardation from Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon exposure in the womb.

SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Off our site, click to go to "An Annotated Bibliography on Acute Respiratory Infections and Indoor Air Pollution with Emphasis on Children Under 5 in Developing Countries,"

Pancreatic Inflammation: Wood Smoke Induced Exocrine pancreatic pathology

Skin: Yushchenko Dioxin Poisoning

    Smoke exposure causes thinner skin.wrinkles.htm

Burn Injury caused by open burning.

Health Effects Overviews

Airing the Word on Pollution Statement from the American Medical Association on Air Pollution

Burning Issues Fact Sheets and Fact Sheets in PDF Format (size 17 KB)

Pub Med 230 MEDICAL ABSTRACTS:1/12/02, the wood smoke list. Also do a fresh search on pubmed.

Off our site, click to go to Australia: Summary of published literature showing adverse health effects of woodsmoke in table format. University of New England Air Quality Research Group. This research was published as a refereed paper in Clean Air, v.32, no.3, August 1998.

Medical Effects of Wood Smoke Chemicals

Wood Smoke Chemicals Health Effects Table

Dioxin: Burning 1 kilogram of wood produced as much as 160 micrograms of total dioxins.

Lead: produced from burning 2.2 pounds of wood = 0.1mg to 3 mg.

Formaldehyde Thad Godish, Ph.D, Department of Natural Resources, Ball State University.

Radioactive Cesium"With the exception of some very low California readings, all measurements of wood ash with fallout cesium exceeded - some by 100 times or more - the levels of radioactive cesium that may be released from nuclear plants (about 100 picocuries per kilogram of sludge). Wood ash cesium levels were especially high in the Northeast." [Science News, 1991]

Carcinogens Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH): Residential wood burning is the source of 50% of airborne Polynuclear Organic Material (POM) in the U.S. POM contain a group of compounds (PAH) which include many Class A carcinogens, the most carcinogenic materials known to exist. Air pollution measurements in a residential neighborhood on Christmas Day (the most wood smoke polluted day) showed early morning background levels of PAH of 20 ng/m3. The level increased as wood burning began, peaking at over 2000 ng/m3. The U.S. EPA estimates that the cancer risk from wood smoke is twelve times greater than from equal amounts of tobacco smoke. Wood burning also creates dioxins and cyanide.

Fungus Mold

Monitoring Exposure to Wood Smoke

Other Medical Information

Accidents: Smoke Causes Accidents

Toxic Brain Encephalopathy or "Brain Fog" and ADA

Studies and Statistics

Swedish Report finds antioxidants in birch wood smoke. This is one of the only studies that has found a beneficial effect in wood smoke. We seriously doubt that it is a net gain.

Medical Effects of Uncombusted Wood: Sawdust is a Class A Carcinogen. Triph Fungal Infection in a Wood Worker: ( uncombusted wood particles.)

Science offers hope for new medical therapies.

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