Where there's smoke, there's trouble

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Where there's smoke, there's trouble

Postby Wilberforce » Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:54 pm

Where there's smoke, there's trouble

Burlington County Times

Where there is wood smoke, there is fire - as well as invisible toxins you could be inhaling.

A little soot exposure probably isn't harmful to most people, pulmonologists say, but a new Danish-led study suggests regular exposure could damage DNA.

Local doctors call the findings interesting, though the implications in the United States are unclear since wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are generally used only a few months of the year.

Short-term health effects of wood-smoke particles on people with airway problems are well-known, the doctors said, as are other potential health hazards such as carbon-monoxide gas buildup, which is also invisible and dangerous.

A decade ago, Dr. Ira Horowitz, a pulmonologist with Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, treated six patients whose respiratory illness was triggered by a major forest fire in Florida. A few drove through the area where the fire occurred, but others were bothered when winds carried the smoke hundreds of miles into South Jersey, Horowitz said.

"There is clearly a hazard with this," said Dr. Sandeep Dhand, chief pulmonologist at Holy Redeemer Medical Center in Abington, Pa. "It's a problem all around."

Wood-smoke particles are the fine powder containing mostly carbon, left after wood is burned.

Long-term exposure increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to equal that of a cigarette smoker, Dhand said. Recent medical literature has found that smoke from burning solid fuels like wood worsens respiratory diseases.

But since fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are used mostly during the fall and winter in most parts of the U.S., Dhand said wood-smoke particle exposure is more limited so it likely presents a lower lung cancer risk.

But some doctors said the latest study appearing last week in the American Chemical Society's journal, Chemical Research in Toxicology, raises new questions about potential long-term exposure. The study found the particles may cause negative health effects.

Considerable scientific evidence has linked inhaling fine particles of air pollution from car exhausts and coal-fired electric power plants and other sources to respiratory problems, cancer and heart disease, but little information exists about the same fine particles associated with burning wood.

In the study, scientists analyzed and compared airborne wood-smoke particles from the center of a Denmark village, where most residents used wood stoves, with a neighboring rural area with few wood stoves, as well as to pure wood-smoke particles collected from a wood stove.

Airborne particles in the village and pure wood-smoke particles tended to be the most potentially dangerous size - small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs, where they could cause disease. Scientists also showed that the tiny particles damaged DNA when tested on human cells.

The scientists further found that wood-smoke particle matter contained higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which include "probable" human carcinogens. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are chemicals formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage or other substances, such as tobacco and charbroiled meat.

The wood-smoke particles were found to be as harmful as the small particles created by car exhaust and coal-burning plants, the study found.

About half of the world uses solid biomass fuels such as wood and coal for indoor heating and cooking. A number of studies have associated indoor solid fuel combustion with health problems, including low infant birth weight, and lung and eye problems in adults.

The American Lung Association warns that burning wood emits harmful toxins, such as dioxin, arsenic and formaldehyde, and fine particulates into the air that can worsen breathing problems and lead to heart and lung disease.

In 2008, the lung organization recommended replacing wood stoves manufactured before 1995 with ones certified by the Environmental Protection Agency that meet stricter emission standards. Modern wood stoves also burn off less particulate matter than older stoves.

The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching a representative with the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, the North American trade group for manufacturers, distributors and specialty retailers of all types of hearth appliances, fuels and accessories, including stoves and fireplace inserts.

But statistics on the group's website show a steady and, in some cases, dramatic decline in popularity of wood-burning equipment in the United States.

Shipments of fireplaces, free-standing wood stoves and inserts declined about 30 percent from a high of 795,767 in 1999 to 235,647 in 2009. Pellet stove and insert shipments showed a pattern of dramatic one-year increases and decreases over the last decade, but most recently experienced a 67 percent decrease between 2008 and 2009.

Air quality indoors can be worse than outdoors in the winter since people spend more time inside. Homes tend to be sealed up and, over time, pollutants can become concentrated, said Dr. Chris Christensen, a pulmonologist at Abington Memorial Hospital in Pennsylvania.

"Those conditions, where the airways are irritable on a good day, are made worse when it's indoors," Christensen said. "The idea that these could potentially be carcinogenic is something we never thought of being an issue. It's fascinating."

Currently there is no way to test for the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in wood-smoke particulate, so "it's a risk hanging out there," Christensen said.

The potential long-term effects of hydrocarbons in wood-smoke particulate could possibly be the next asbestos situation, where the harmful health effects of exposure don't appear until decades later, Christensen said.

"I'm glad they are bringing attention to it," he added.

http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/news_de ... ouble.html

Is Using a Wood-Stove Bad for Your Health?
Kristie Leong M.D., Yahoo! Contributor Network
Feb 13, 2011

Some people use a wood-stove to heat their home because they're economical. Wood is also a renewable source of fuel, and you can harvest dead trees as wood for your wood-stove and replant them. But using a
wood-stove may not be so good for your health. According to a new study published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, tiny particles that come from burning a wood-stove or a fireplace could damage your lungs.

Using a Wood-Stove: Is It Bad for Your Health?

Burning wood using a wood-stove or fireplace produces wood smoke that contains very small particles called particulate matter, which can be inhaled into the lungs. Little research has looked into the effects that wood smoke and particulate matter from burning wood has on the lungs - until now.

Researchers took a closer look at areas of Denmark where wood-stoves are commonly used and compared it to regions where wood-stoves are less common. They discovered that particulate matter from areas where wood-stoves are frequently used contain particles small enough to penetrate the lower airways of the lungs where they can cause damage. Wood smoke also contains chemicals called hydrocarbons that damage DNA, the genetic material, in cell cultures. That cozy wood fire or fireplace doesn't sound quite so comforting, now does it?

Fireplace fumes and wood smoke from wood-stoves may be particularly unhealthy for people who smoke or have asthma, heart disease or lung disease. Breathing in wood smoke and particulate matter can worsen the symptoms of these diseases and, potentially, lead to further damage over time.

Another Risk of Using Wood-Stoves

When you use a wood-stove, you also run the risk of fire and the build-up of carbon monoxide, which can be fatal - all good reasons to think carefully before using a wood-stove to heat your home.

Should You Use a Wood-Stove: The Bottom Line?

If you or anyone in your family has heart disease, lung disease or asthma, it's best not to use a wood-stove or burn wood in a fireplace. If you're healthy and can't resist the allure of burning wood, only use clean wood that's seasoned, never wood that's been treated or stained.

Build as small a fire as possible and keep the door of a wood-stove shut except when you're replacing wood. Always have a smoke alarm, carbon-monoxide detector and fire extinguisher available if you burn a wood-stove or fireplace. Be especially careful if you have kids since they have smaller lung volumes and are more susceptible to lung damage from wood smoke.


Eurekalert.org. "Air Pollutants From Fireplaces and Wood-Burning Stoves Raise Health Concerns"

http://www.associatedcontent.com/articl ... html?cat=5
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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