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           Wood Burner Smoke

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Research shows that the prominent toxic components of wood smoke affect every organ system, especially fetal brain development   Below are 17 other reasons:

1.  All pollution is not created equal.  Wood smoke is the most toxic type of  pollution in most cities,  more dangerous than auto pollution and most industrial pollution.  Lighting a wood fire in your house is like starting up your own toxic incinerator.

2.  Lifetime cancer risk is 12 times greater for wood smoke compared to an equal volume of second hand cigarette smoke.

3.  Burning 10 lbs. of wood for one hour, releases as much PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) as 6,000 packs of cigarettes.  

4.  Toxic free-radical chemicals in wood smoke are biologically active 40 times longer than the free radicals in cigarette smoke.

5.  Wood smoke is the third largest source of dioxins, one of the most intensely toxic compounds known to science.

6.  The very small size of wood particles make them seven times more likely to be inhaled than other particulate pollution.

7.  Wood smoke easily penetrates homes of neighbors creating concentrations up to 88% as high as outdoor air.  

8.  If you smell wood smoke, you know you are being harmed.  The sweet smell comes from deadly compounds like benzene. 

9.  The most dangerous components of air pollution are much higher inside homes that burn wood than non-burners, as much as 500% higher.

10.  Considering the most dangerous part of particulate pollution, wood burning produces as much overall as all our cars during the winter.

11.  The inhalable particulate pollution from one woodstove is equivalent to the amount emitted from 3,000 gas furnaces producing the same amount of heat.

12.  Emissions from modern combustion appliances for wood logs may increase ten-fold if they are not operated appropriately or frequently maintained, and most of them are not.

13.  Wood smoke is the only pollution emitted right where people spend most of their time.  It disperses poorly, is not evenly distributed and stays in the air longer because of its small size.  Concentrations can be 100 times higher for neighbors of wood burners than what is captured at the nearest monitoring station. Real local “pollution victims” are created even when overall community levels are low.

14.  If your neighbor is a regular wood burner, you can go an entire winter without having one single day of clean air.

15.  According to California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District, burning wood costs the rest of the community, primarily your next door neighbors, at least $2  in extra medical expenses for every lb of wood that you burn.  An average fire then costs your neighbors about $40.     

16.  Long ago most communities passed ordinances protecting people from second hand cigarette smoke.  Ironically those laws protect people at places they don't necessarily have to be (restaurants, stores, buildings, etc).  But in the one place they have to be, their home, they have no protection from something even worse—wood smoke.  People should have just as much protection from wood smoke as from cigarette smoke and for all the same reasons.  We don’t allow people to blow cigarette smoke in your face, why should we allow people to blow wood smoke into your home?

17.  Wood burning is not even close to carbon neutral over the short term, the next few decades, and it is that time frame that will make or break the climate crisis.  Burning wood is extremely in inefficient. Per unit of heat created wood produces even more CO2 than the fossil fuels do.  Furthermore, the black carbon particulate matter released enhances the absorption of radiant heat in the atmosphere, making global warming worse, and prematurely melts already imperiled mountain snow pack.  


***Click here for suggestions to deal with problem residential wood smoke

Also, please check the "links" page to see if there is a representative in your area that you can contact before emailing to me. A representative in your own area will have more information about your bylaws than I will have.***

 Ithaca, New York

Read the sweeping language of the new code: E. No outdoor wood-burning burning furnace be installed, constructed, maintained or operated on the exterior property of premises within the City. (Chapter 178-4)

Lung Cancer Pathogenesis Associated With Wood Smoke Exposure*

WHO (World Health Organization):

Outdoor air pollution a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.

Click here for the PDF

Physicians Group targets fireplaces and fuel burning stoves

 Burning wood for heat and power: Health impacts and what clinicians can do


The American Lung Association

Please visit The American Lung Association's "Public Policy" page. (Please note that the policy document is for informational purposes only and should not indicate an endorsement of products advertised on the site)

There is more information regarding "Residential Wood and Other Biomass Combustion" on page 5 of the "Energy" PDF

Also, please visit their "State of the Air" site for even more information.

 Air pollution causes between 1,000 and 2,000 premature deaths every year in Utah.

Cost-Effective Actions to Cut Black Carbon, Methane and Tropospheric Ozone Spotlighted in New Report

Source: United Nations Environment Program

The Dangers of Wood Smoke



Woodsmoke is not just an outdoor problem. The particles are very small, ranging from .2 microns at the start of the burn period to .05 microns as the burn cycle progresses. Particles of this size behave like gases. The only way to keep them of houses out is to make our homes airtight and risk dying from lack of oxygen. When emitted on cold, still nights, woodsmoke builds up outdoors and then seeps into our houses. A study in Vancouver (Intake Fraction of Urban Wood Smoke, Ries et al.. Envir Sci Tech, 2009) reported that woodsmoke particles are 7 times more likely to be breathed into our lungs than the average PM2.5 particle in Vancouver's air.

Once breathed in, woodsmoke particles are much more dangerous than environmental tobacco smoke. Organic extracts of ambient particulate matter containing substantial quantities of woodsmoke were found to be 30- fold more potent than extracts of cigarette smoke condensate in a mouse skin tumour induction assay. In human cell lines, woodsmoke caused more DNA damage than traffic-generated PM per unit mass and was found to induce lung cancer in mice. Oncogene mutations in human patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer have been associated with exposure to wood smoke as well as active tobacco smoking.

   Woodsmoke contains several known human carcinogens, including benzene, benzo[a]pyrene and formaldehyde. Burning 1 kg of wood in a modern heater produces more benzo[a]pyrene than in the smoke from 27,000 cigarettes and more benzene and formaldehyde than in the smoke of 6,000 cigarettes.

   Predominant wood (fuel) users in North America and Europe had a 21% higher risk of lung cancer. In developing countries, exposure to woodsmoke is associated with lung, mouth and throat cancers, and even cervical cancers in women who test positive for the HPV virus.

In OECD countries, lung cancer increases by 14% for every additional 10 ug/m3 of annual PM2.5 exposure. It is the largest single-source of PM2.5 emissions in most Australian cities - 67% of PM2.5 emissions in Canberra (where 3.9% of households have woodheaters) and 34% in Sydney (where 4.3% use wood as the main form of heating). The situation is similar in Canada, e.g. Quebec, where wood heating is responsible for 61% of fine particle emanations.

Based on the estimated 14% increase in lung cancers per 10 ug/m3 of annual PM2.5 exposure and the high proportion of PM2.5 from woodsmoke, the number of cancers from woodsmoke is likely to rival or perhaps exceed the number from ETS. Thanks to the excellent work of all cancer councils, most people are able to avoid exposure to ETS at work and in restaurants, so population exposure to this toxin is probably less than exposure to woodsmoke, which has been shown to cause many more cancers per unit of exposure than ETS.

   Dr Dorothy L Robinson,
Snr Research Scientist,
Adj A/Prof, University of New England.

Please see the research documentation and even more important information at:   cancer

Click HERE to download the "Published Literature on Woodsmoke and Cancer".



Thanks to Dr. Arden Pope for his presentation on the "Health Effects of Particulate Matter Air Pollution"

Click here for the slide presentation

“Wood Smoke vs. Cigarette Smoke. Although many people associate tobacco smoke with certain health risks, research indicates that second hand wood smoke has potentially even greater ability to damage health. A comparison between tobacco smoke and wood smoke using electron spin resonance revealed quite startling results (Rozenberg 2001, Wood Smoke is More Damaging than Tobacco Smoke). Tobacco smoke causes damage in the body for approximately 30 seconds after it is inhaled. Wood smoke, however, continues to be chemically active and cause damage to cells in the body for up to 20 minutes, or 40 times longer.”


 Who is Dirty Aviston?

Dirty Aviston was raised in Clinton County Illinois; he attended elementary and high school in Clinton County. Dirty Aviston graduated high school half-year early because he had enlisted in the United States Air Force (USAF). When Dirty Aviston’s high school class was graduating high school, he was being sworn-in as a USAF Security Policeman at the age of 17. For the next 23+ years, Dirty Aviston was deployed around the world defending this great country of ours and defending freedom. Little did he know his individual freedom and rights would be violated when he moved back to Clinton County, Illinois.

Dirty Aviston returned to Clinton County, Illinois. Upon his return, he was sworn in as a police officer and continues to serve his country in another capacity. This is when/where Dirty Aviston first encountered an Outdoor Wood Boiler (OWB) also known as an Outdoor Wood Furnace (OWF). 

Dirty Aviston is now a Disabled Veteran who has to use a breathing machine on a daily basis due to his Service Connected Disability.  This OWB's/OWF's toxic smoke is a nuisance, it damages his property, it prevents him from enjoying his property, it prevents him from using his prescribed breathing machine as it was prescribed, and it has a negative impact on his health and the health of his family…
Click here for the rest of the story…


Dan Stih

Certified Microbial Consultant (CMC)
Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIEC)
President, Healthy Living Spaces LLC

Dan has written a book, Healthy Living Spaces, filled with information, which can be purchased online.


Our homes and offices may be clean, but are they safe? Armed with aerosol sprays and bleach, we wage war against germs and household dirt, but at what cost?


The smoke and the dust from wildfires is unhealthy to breathe. The effects of smoke range from eye and respiratory tract irritation to more serious disorders, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma, and premature death. Studies have found that fine particles are linked with increased mortality and aggravation of pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease (Wildfire Smoke A Guide for Public Health Officials, Revised July 2008).


 Click HERE for "The Air We Breathe" video sent by a wood smoke victim.

 Click HERE for 'The Dangers of Wood Smoke' video.

The Canadian Cancer Society lists, among other pollutants,  indoor coal or wood burning as linked to a number of negative health effects.

It makes existing lung disease and heart problems worse and it increases the number of lung cancer deaths.

The EPA has written that wood smoke is 12 times more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke.

(The Health Effects of Wood Smoke, Washington State Department of Ecology)

 Therefore, it can be assumed that, if you can smell smoke, you are inhaling it. Even limited exposure can be harmful.

"If you can smell smoke, there is a problem". US EPA, Consumer Information Sheet, "Reducing Air Pollution from Residential Wood Burning", 9-12-2005.

"The inhaled particle from one woodstove is equivalent to the particle pollution emitted from 3,000  gas furnaces producing the same amount of heat per unit."

 June 13, 2011 –  Arizona wildfires: how they affect your health…


No Breathing Room ... National Illness Costs of Air Pollution in Canada

Click here for the full report

Be sure to skim down to page 13 that shows estimates from 2008 that PM2.5 pollution is responsible for the premature deaths of more than 20,000 Canadians. 



Click here to listen to Bonnie Lichak speak to the Assembly Environmental Committee 2011 Budget

Hearing November 2010 regarding wood smoke.


Studies have shown that as much as 80% of air pollution measured outside can seep into surrounding homes within an hour.


The American Lung Association says "Wood smoke is like tobacco smoke. There is no safe level for wood smoke."

"In addition to the local problems caused by widespread biomass burning, two other related issues have not been addressed. First, the amount of monitoring for particulate air pollution is not even close to what is needed. Second, our public health laws are not effective in helping people who are being exposed to biomass smoke by a neighbor. The difference in how sewage system incursion on to neighboring property is addressed is much more clear and reliable than how wood smoke “trespassing” is treated by public officials."

"We support efforts to rewrite and enforce public health laws that protect people from the dangers of wood smoke exposure. As in the area of secondhand tobacco smoke, the right to breathe healthy air is primary. It supersedes any alleged “right” to burn wood."

  The EPA has written that wood smoke is 12 times more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke.



Wood smoke causes cancer. 

Click here for the Wood Smoke and Cancer pdf from the Washington State Department of Ecology

Thank you Dr Robinson of the Armidale Air Quality Group for this information!



Currently, many people are suffering due to outdoor burning. The noxious stench is infiltrating their homes and properties… a very dangerous way to have to live when a ban on outdoor burning would end their misery. No matter what they try, the smoke gets into their homes. The toxin-laden particles cannot be kept out.

 If you live in Alberta, please email to FreshAirCalgary@shaw.ca   

Wood Smoke Pollution & Your Health


For those that think that doctors are lax in speaking out on the wood smoke issue and its harmful effects on our health and environment, here are 3 prominent doctors who tell it like it is.

Please pass this on to your municipalities and governmental agencies, many of which have no idea of the seriousness of living next to someone who burns and releases the toxins into our air.

With gratitude to:

Dr. Jim Markos, medical lung specialist (Australian Lung Foundation)

Dr. Sverre Vedal of the University of Washington

Dr. Michael Aizen from the Australian Medial Association



Click here to read the EHHI (Environment & Human Health Inc.) Report on Outdoor Wood Furnaces



The Ontario Municipal Act, 2001 authorizes municipalities to pass by-laws regarding the economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality, health and safety of the residents and protection of people as well as properties including activities that could cause public nuisance.

Section 125 of the Act provides that a municipality may regulate heating and cooking appliances. 26  Such appliances may include outdoor boilers and chimeneas as well as indoor wood stoves, fireplaces and chimneys. A local municipality may regulate a) the use and installation of heating and cooking appliances, and b) the storage of fuel for use in heating and cooking appliances, etc. In addition, a municipality has the power to enter on land at any reasonable time for the purpose of carrying out an inspection to determine whether or not by-laws or orders are being complied with.

Ontario's Environmental Protection Act (EPA)

Every person is responsible for complying with the provisions of the EPA. No person shall create a discharge of any air contaminants that may cause adverse health or environmental effect which is a prosecutable offence under the Act. Any adverse effects, including those caused by the burning of waste, could result in compliance and enforcement action being taken by the Ministry of the Environment. In addition, despite exemption of certain facilities or establishments from Certificate of Approval requirements under the Act such sites must comply with the applicable air standards set out in Ontario Regulation 419/05: Air Pollution - Local Air Quality.


   Source: Greater Wellington Regional Council


Much has been published by wood burning appliance makers that might lead one to believe that wood burning is safe. Not so!

There is no such thing as 'good' smoke. All smoke carries particulate matter that can be drawn deep into the lungs to cause severe damage. If you can smell smoke then you are inhaling these particulates and the damage has begun. You cannot escape the wood smoke that makes its way into your home through ventilation systems and even minute spaces in doors and windows. No air cleaner will clear the air and make it safe to breathe. The only answer is for all of you to contact your municipal and governmental leaders and demand that they create bylaws regarding wood burning in residential areas. You might want to tell them that, if they have banned cigarette smoking in public areas, why are you forced to breathe wood smoke in your own home and property?

We all need to work on this important issue and we need to do it now!





Rolf Czeskleba-Dupont of Denmark has written a research report, which was edited last November at a transnational publisher on "Toxic emissions and devaluated CO2-neutrality. Expanded combustion of stem wood violates sustainable development". Reviewers  may order it as an e-book from: 



Ontario Residents

Click here for a copy of the mpac (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) Reassessment Request for Reconsideration Form for Ontario.

Maybe if more of us applied for tax reductions because of nuisance, local and provincial governments would take notice!


Click here for the Model Municipal Bylaw from Environment Canada

(French & English)

A hard-working organization, registered in Quebec, that fights solely for ending wood smoke. 


A heart-breaking story and video of a family subjected to wood smoke

Click here for the video


Airborne attack sparks lawsuit  ...

Read the article by Chris Halliday on the 'Ontario Cases' page. 

Launceston City Council and Tasmanian State protester (Rod Farmer) is out to shame the government in order to enforce regulations regarding wood smoke.    Click here to read his blog.

Oakley, California ..To reduce air pollution, wood-burning fireplaces in homes and gas-burning fireplaces or pits in recreation areas will not be allowed, and efficient heating, ventilation and appliances as well as window and wall insulation will be required.


 Australian Air Quality Group - Woodsmoke

Air Advocacy


  Residents against wood smoke emission particulates

Once a Forest


"Wood smoke is chemically active in the body 40 times longer than tobacco smoke! The particles are smaller than red blood cells. They transport toxic gases, bacteria and viruses into the lung and directly into the bloodstream. Wood smoke is 12 times more likely to cause cancer than the same amount of tobacco smoke."

( William Pryor, PhD, University of Louisiana )

New CMA Report Warns Poor Air Quality Killing Canadians 

OTTAWA, August 13, 2008 - The Canadian Medical Association released staggering new data today showing that this year alone as many as 21,000 Canadians will die prematurely from the effects of air pollution. While most of those deaths will be due to chronic exposure over a number of years, almost 3,000 will be the result of acute, short-term exposure.

The CMA's report entitled No Breathing Room: National Illness Costs of Air Pollution, shows the effects of poor air quality based on the concentrations of two highly predictive pollutants - ozone and particulate matter - on four distinct age groups of Canadians.

"With the start of the Olympics in Beijing, much has been made about the poor air quality in China and the effect it is having on our athletes," said CMA President Dr. Brian Day. "But we have a serious home-grown pollution problem right here and Canadians, ranging from the very young to the very old, are paying the price."

Specific findings of the No Breathing Room: National Illness Costs of Air Pollution report include:

  • By 2031, almost 90,000 Canadians will have died from the acute short-term effects of air pollution. The number of deaths, due to long-term exposure, will be over 700,000 - the population of Quebec City.
  • In 2008, 80% of those who die due to air pollution will be over age 65.
  • In 2008, 25 Canadians under age 19 will die of the effects of short-term exposure to air pollution.
  • Ontario and Quebec residents are the worst hit Canadians, with 70% of the premature deaths occurring in Central Canada, even though these two provinces comprise only 62% of Canada's population.
  • In 2008 there will be over 9,000 hospital visits, 30,000 emergency department visits and 620,000 doctor's office visits due to air pollution.
  • The economic costs of air pollution in 2008 will top $8 billion. By 2031, they will have accumulated to over $250 billion.

Newspaper article of April 16, 2008

Jim & Shirley Brandie  v  Salvatore DeSantis & Marina Estrella

**You will find the wood in the above photo was put in the barn in 2006, post-injunction. Photos are on the 2006 page.**

Article from United Press International


Residential wood burning releases harmful and toxic pollutants into the air we breathe. These pollutants are so tiny they are emitted both indoors and outdoors...and seep into our homes through cracks, ventilation systems and even around closed doors and windows. Breathing in wood smoke in any quantity is not good for anyone. Why should we be subjected to any residential wood burning smoke and odour in our homes, yards and neighborhoods...especially against our will.

Dioxins and furans are some of the most toxic chemicals known to science. ...

The EPA report confirmed that dioxin is a cancer hazard to people. When you burn wood you produce dioxin.  A recent Lawrence Livermore study found that while wood burning was the third largest source of dioxin in many cities.


Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are produced in abundance when you burn wood.

"They are primarily formed by incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels such as wood, coal, diesel, fat, or tobacco. Tar also contains PAHs. Since human civilization relies so heavily on combustion, PAHs are inevitably linked to our energy production. In this sense, PAH can be thought of as marker molecules as their abundance can be directly proportional to combustion processes in the region and therefore directly related to air quality. Different types of combustion yield different distributions of PAHs."� Wikipedia�

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.

The EPA estimates that the lifetime cancer risk from wood stove smoke is twelve times greater than that from an equal volume of second hand tobacco smoke. (The Health Effects of Wood Smoke, Washington State Department of Ecology)

"Burning two cords of wood produces the same amount of mutagenic particles as: Driving 13 gasoline powered cars 10,000 miles each at 20 miles/gallon. These figures indicate that the worst contribution that an individual is likely to make to the mutagenicity of the air is using a wood stove for heating, followed by driving a diesel car." ( Dr. Joellen Lewtas, Contribution of Source Emissions of the Mutagenicity of Ambient Urban Air Particles, U.S. EPA, #91-131.6, 1991 )

***Please note: I take no responsibility for articles sent for publication. It is of utmost importance that one double-checks authenticity of anything sent to me for publication on this web site. Please double-check your data and any hyperlinks attached to the article submitted.***


Last updated: November 14, 2017



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