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 Wood Burning Smoke
 
     
  Excerpted from: the Burning Issue, Box 1045, Point Arena CA 95468
Tel: 707-882-3601,URL:http://burningissues.org
 
     
  Backyard burning is what we're talking about. It can be as bad for your health as cigarettes.  
     
  Smoke from burning vegetation is now considered one of the most serious kinds of air pollution.  
     
  The smoke from your fire can seriously pollute your neighbor hood's air for several hours. In fact, during periods when the wind is still, the hazardous particles and gases in smoke can accumulate to harmful levels for days. Ironically, backyard burning often occurs during calm weather, when the smoke can't be dispersed — and on the weekend, when many people are out for a "breath of fresh air." Running inside and closing the doors and windows won't protect you, since smoke easily seeps through small cracks and holes.  
     
  Fine particulates are small enough to be breathed into the deepest reaches of our lungs. They are associated with all sorts of health problems — from a runny nose and coughing, to bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, and even death. Senior citizens, infants and people who already have lung or heart problems are most at risk, but healthy younger adults and children can also be affected.  
     
  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.  
     
  An 86 page research list is available on the web "An Annotated Bibliography on Acute Respiratory Infections and Indoor Air Pollution with Emphasis on Children Under 5 in Developing Countries", ( J.P. McCracken & K.R. Smith, done for the Environmental Health Project, USAID, December 1997.) Copies are available on the EHP web site at: http://www.crosslink.net/~ehp/aribib2.htm or contact Dan Campbell, EHP, at email, campbelldb@cdm.com to request a printed copy.  
     
  "The risk of premature death is 17% higher in cities with high fine particulate levels when compared with cities with cleaner air." (Dockery, et al, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, March 1995).  
     
  The elderly, newborns, children, adults who exercise rigorously and those with existing heart and lung disease are most at risk for premature death due to particle pollution exposure. (American Lung Association, "The Perils of Particulates", 1-800-LUNG-USA)  
     
  For every increase in the level of particle air pollution there is a measurable increase in chronic respiratory illness. On an average it is 6% increase in mortality and an 18 1/2% increase in respiratory hospital emissions for every 50 m/m3. (Joel Schwartz, Harvard School of Public Health, Particulate Air Pollution and Chronic Respiratory Disease, Environmental Research 62, 7-13, 1993)  
     
  In localities where wood is the predominant house heating fuel, wood stoves have been shown to contribute as much as 80% of the ambient PM10 (fine particle) concentrations during winter months. This study shows that the new technology stoves do not achieve the emission reduction expected. Some models were experiencing degraded emission control performance after only a few months use. "the relatively poor showing of the control technologies was very disappointing." ( In-House Performance of New Technology Wood stoves, EPA/600/D-90/026, Robert C. McCrillis, EPA/600/D-90/026)  
     
  In some neighborhoods, on some days, 90% of the particle pollution is from residential burning. (Jane Koenig and Timothy Larson, A Summary of Emissions Characterization and Non-cancer Respiratory Effects of Wood Smoke, US EPA DOC #453/R-93-036, 1-919-541-0888)  
     
  Children's health studies document that living in homes where wood is burned, and in communities where wood smoke is prevalent, the wood smoke  causes decreases in lung capacity and increases in asthma attacks, frequency and severity of general respiratory illness, emergency room visits and school absences. b.) Wood burning releases many air pollutants, some of these are: chlorinated Dioxin, carbon monoxide, methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and fine particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5). ("A Summary of Emissions Characterizations and Non-Cancer Respiratory Effects of Wood Smoke", Anuszewski, Larson, and Koenig, (1992); “Simultaneous Indoor and Outdoor Particle Light Scattering Measurements at Nine Homes Using a Portable Nephelometer" University of Washington, Dept. of Civil Engineering and Dept. of Environmental Health)  
     
  Lab rats exposed to 750ug/m3 wood smoke concentration experienced an immediate 25% reduction in pulmonary bacterial clearance. Certain lung functions were reduced by 23% and 61% after 1.5 and 2.5 hours respectively. Researchers concluded that wood smoke compromises important pulmonary immune defense mechanisms and suggests an association between wood smoke and increased incidence of respiratory infection. (Zelikoff, J.T., N.Y. Univ. Med. Center, Instit. of Env. Med, CIAR Currents, Nov. 1994)  
     
  50% of the polynuclear organic material (POM) in our air is from residential burning. POMs contain the subgroup PAH. PAHs include benzo(a) pyrene and other known carcinogenic compounds.(In-House Performance of New Technology Wood Stoves, EPA/600/D-90/026)  
     
  California: Data from a fixed site in a residential neighborhood of the San Francisco Bay Area shows that particulate concentrations increase most rapidly in the early evening and that the highest concentrations occur in the late evening, after 11 PM. (Real Time Monitoring of Air Borne Particulates", Mary J. Rozenberg, Inhalation Toxicology, (7(5), 1995).  
     
  California: In middle class suburban California neighborhood indoor and outdoor PAH levels coincided with residential wood stove and fireplace use in the evenings of the heating season. Indoor levels averaged 60% of outdoor levels. Indoor-Outdoor PAH Time Series from the Residential Exposure Project, Technical Progress Report #1, Development of and Advanced Total Human Exposure Model, EPA Innovative Research Program, Nov. 1995, Wayne Ott, Ph.D; Neil Kleipus.  
     
  The US EPA warns that exposure to a fraction of a nanogram of PAH increases our risk of developing cancer. (Wood Burning Fireplaces: Romance or Risk, BioScience Vol. 32 No 2, February, 1982)  
     
  Wood smoke contains over 200 chemicals and compound groups. The emissions are almost entirely in the inhalable size range. This paper is a must read. (Environmental Impact of Residential Wood Combustion Emissions and Its Implications, John A. Cooper, APCA Journal, Vol.30 No.8, August 1980); Air borne wood dust (uncombusted) can cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation. Breathing excessive amounts of wood dust has been associated with nasal cancer in some industries. The international agency for research of cancer (LARC) classified all wood dust as a human carcinogen Group 1.  
     
  Wood smoke particle analyses show particle range between 0.15 and .4 microns, with essentially none greater than one micron, (Koenig, et al, 1993); (b) Burning Issues shows a photograph of wood particles taken from a woman's diseased lung on our website. Note the tissue piercing shape of the coated and uncoated wood fibers, (Interstitial Lung Disease and Domestic Wood Burning, Ramage, Roggli, Bell, and Piantadosi, 1987); (c) The smoke pollution particles are so small that they filter into our homes even with all the doors and windows closed. The level of indoor air pollution is typically equal to 70% of the outdoor pollution level. (The Health Effects of Wood Smoke, Washington State Department of Ecology)  
     
  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); (b)"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 or driving 2 diesel powered cars 10,000 miles each @ 30 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, follower 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)  
     
  Free radicals produced from wood smoke are chemically active for twenty minutes; tobacco smoke free radicals are chemically active for thirty seconds. Wood smoke free radicals may attack our body’s cells up to forty times longer once inhaled. (Lachocki, Pryor, et al, Persistent Free Radicals in Wood smoke, Louisiana State University, Free Radical Biology & Medicine Vol.12, 1992)  
     
  Dioxin: Wood burning is the second largest source of dioxin in the San Francisco Bay Area. (LLL, 2001) Wood burning is the third largest source of dioxin in the United States. (EPA 1994, Loretta Ucelli spokeswoman, Washington Post)  
     
  The San Francisco Bay Area alone could enjoy $2 billion a year in health benefits, avoid thousands of serious illnesses and save 400 lives a year if the air quality regulators would focus on reducing particle air pollution (Jane Hall, Environmental Scientist, California State University at Fullerton, Air Quality Regulators Pick Wrong Target, S.F. Chronicle, 9/26/94) (David Fairley of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District estimates that more than $1 billion of medical illness expense in the Bay area is from wood smoke pollution. One wood fire can cost as much as $40. of medical damage to neighbors. The BAAQMD estimates that fewer than 16% of the population burn wood)  
     
  "Simply banning or limiting wood fires could potentially save many lives at little or no cost."(David Fairley, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, De Mandel, R., Rothenberg, M., and Perardi, T. (1992), Results From the 1991-92 Pilot Study of Wintertime PM10 in the San Francisco Bay Area, BAAQMD, TM 92002)  
     
  Animal toxicology studies show that wood smoke exposure can disrupt cellular membranes, depress macrophage activity, destroy ciliated and secretory respiratory epithelial cells and cause aberrations in biochemical enzyme levels." (3) A Summary Of Emissions Characterization And Noncancer Respiratory Effects Of Wood Smoke, Timothy V. Larson and Jane Q. Koenig, U.S.EPA-453/R-93-036, Dec. 1993)  
     
  A medical evaluation of Mexican women who regularly cook over open wood fires revealed ravaged lungs and Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, more severe than tobacco-related Chronic Obstructed Pulmonary Disease. (Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension and Cor Pulmonale Associated with Chronic Domestic Wood smoke Inhalation, Julio Sandoval, M.D., etal., Chest 1993;103:pp12-20.)  
     
  Wood stoves linked to mouth cancer. Thursday January 21 8:07 PM ET NEW YORK, Jan 21 (Reuters Health) -- Wood burning stoves appear to increase the risk of cancers of the mouth and throat, a study suggests. People exposed to the smoke from such stoves have 2 to 3 times the risk of cancers of the mouth and throat, and the wood stoves may be responsible for 30% of all such cancers, according to the study conducted of 2,352 people living in Southern Brazil. ``Cooking and heating stoves are used in more than half the world's households and have been shown in many locations to produce high indoor concentrations of particulates, carbon monoxide and other combustion-related pollutants,'' reported Dr. Eduardo Franco, of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and colleagues in the International Journal of Epidemiology. ``Wood and coal fires generate a number of combustion products which are known or suspected carcinogenic agents.'' Franco, along with Brazilian colleagues, compared 784 patients with mouth and throat cancers to 1,568 people without cancer. Of the cancer patients, about 48% had mouth cancer, 27% had pharyngeal cancer and 25% had laryngeal cancer. After taking into account tobacco and alcohol consumption, which increase the risk of such cancers, particularly when consumed together, the researchers found that the use of a wood stove was still linked to increased cancer risk. The women in the study appeared to be at greater risk for the cancer, particularly cancer of the larynx. ``This finding is probably related to the fact that women are more exposed to emissions from wood stoves,'' the authors note. ``Analogous results were found in China, where women exposed to emissions from cooking stoves were at higher risk of developing lung cancer than men.''(International Journal of Epidemiology 1998; 27:936-940)  
     
  England began to mandate clean fuel use following the UK Clean Air Act of 1956, first in London, then in towns of designated populations with a smoke control order. This was a result of the deaths of 4,000 people during the infamous London Smog air pollution episode of December 1952. Solid fuel combustion was a significant contributing factor. This one page ordinance has stood for over fifty years. (Clean Air Legislation in the UK. On Her Majesty's Service, Dept. of the Environment)  
     
  "I saw very strong and significant associations between tonsillitis, frequent cough, pseudo-croup, exercise induced wheeze, food allergies and Wood smoke exposure in our school children. I think that Wood smoke is one of the most harmful air pollutants we have on earth." (Gerd Oberfeld, M.D., Epidemiologist, Public health office - Unit for Environmental Health, Salzburg, Austria. International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, (ISAAC) Salzburg 1997.)  
     
  "The largest single source of outdoor fine particles (PM2.5) entering into our homes in many American cities is our neighbor's fireplace or wood stove. Despite the ineffectiveness of a fireplace in heating a home, only a few hours of wood burning in a single home at night can raise fine particle concentrations in dozens of surrounding homes throughout the neighborhood and cause PAH concentrations higher than 2,000 ng/m3. The far reaching implications of these scientific discoveries for environmental laws have not yet sunk in the Nation's consciousness. The best way to reduce the exposures of our children and families to toxic pollutants that cause cancer, asthma, or other diseases is by taking very simple steps in our daily lives, not relying on billion-dollar "remediations" or complex laws controlling industrial point source emissions. Indeed, ignoring indoor air pollution and human exposure as the nation is doing under its current environmental laws, is a tragic disregard of our children's health and the well-being of future generations." ( Dr. Wayne Ott, Statistics, Stanford University, 2/1/98)  
     
  Smoke is smoke: 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. CHEMICAL ANALYSIS OF GRASS SEED FIELD STRAW, Jeffrey A. Corkill, Ph. D., Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Eastern Washington University (1996)  
     
  Morbidity and Mortality from Air Pollution  
     
  "As many as 60,000 Americans die each year from particulate pollution." (Schwartz, 1991)  
     
  The Health Effects Institute Review of studies of ambient PM10 in 90 cities in the year 2000, show a consistent one half percent increase in mortality for every change of 10 micrograms/meter cubed measured for 24 hours before the day of death. (We do not have similar data for PM 2.5m/m3 because there was no consistent monitoring data available in year 2001 for the researchers to analyze.) The same rise in particulate levels cause increased hospitalization for heart disease by one percent. Hospitalization for pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) increased two percent (HEI, 2001). (The current 24 hour Federal Standard PM Standard is 65 micrograms per cubic meter.)  
     
  "Thousands of deaths every year in the United States are associated with particulate air pollution, even at levels well below that which the EPA considers safe. The consistency and coherence of the evidence is remarkable: many investigators in different locations, using different methods, at different times and under different conditions, are finding particulate air pollution to be associated with increasing symptoms, increased incidence and prevalence of illnesses, increased absence from school and work, decreased lung function, increased emergency department visits, increased hospital admissions, and increased mortality (Dickey, 1996)."  
     
  "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)  
     
  "For the San Francisco Bay Area, this risk (from low levels of fine particulate pollution) is much greater than the risks from any toxic identified so far." "The entire excess death rate in the San Francisco Bay Area occurs during the wood burning months (Fairley 1990).The Relationship of Daily Mortality to Suspended Particulates."  
     
  "Respiratory infection caused by smoke from indoor cooking and heating fires causes more children's deaths in the Third World than does diarrhea, a well-known killer of infants and toddlers (WHO 1994)."  
     
  When Smoke Meets the Human Body  
     
  Moderate smoke inhalation reduces oxygen delivery, and increases oxygen demands on your body. It will matter a great deal to your body when you are exposed. Periods of particular susceptibility include: prenatal, childhood while the body is growing and is not fully protected by the immune system or following cancer chemotherapy when the immune system is disabled. Smoke can be devastating to an individual following transplant surgery, during a case of the flu, or in addition to other body stresses of disease or emotional upset. Ambient levels of particulate pollution are related to mortality rates. We can go over the body systems and look at how WS can cause upset and even death to these systems  
     
  Particulate pollution is soot. Wood smoke soot kills people. It always has. Well preserved mummies from 5,000 years ago (when there were no cars or diesel soot) show ravaged lungs at early ages. Wood smoke kills people just like cigarette smoke does. As with cigarette smoke, people who don't burn are exposed as well but on a larger scale. We know that cigarette smoke shortens lives. All smoke shortens lives. As long as populations are exposed to wood smoke it is clear that deaths will be increased in proportion to the smoke in the air.  
     
  The Health Effects Institute Review table is a landmark, and came about because of the general disbelief that surrounded the clarion call of statistical findings by Schwartz, Fairley and others. Earlier findings by Omni Environmental Services, Inc., who prepared a five state report in 1988 for the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) Bio-mass Energy Program included tables of estimated numbers of wood smoke deaths and cancer victims (Greene, 1988). The findings were a gross under estimate yet it was still a movement toward understanding the true cost of wood energy. It showed that there was a cost of loss of life and public health in the national biomass energy plan.  
     
  The EPA in a 2000 report revisits the 1992 wood stoves (phase II) study.  
     
  To get the full picture you need to read the long report (1172KB) Key facts are: the stoves deteriorate with use, that emission rates for phase 2 stove models in original tests are not representative of emission levels of the same stove models in homes after extended use. Preliminary analysis of table 3-12 of the report seems to indicate that on average the EPA Certified 'phase II' wood stoves are 175% dirtier than they were certified to be. Reminding us what the study leader said in March of 1990: "In localities where wood is the predominant house heating fuel, wood stoves have been shown to contribute as much as 80% of the ambient PM10 (fine particle) concentrations during winter months. This study shows that the new technology stoves do not achieve the emission reduction expected. Some models were experiencing degraded emission control performance after only a few months use. "the relatively poor showing of the control technologies was very disappointing." (In-House Performance of New Technology Wood stoves, EPA/600/D-90/026, Robert C. McCrillis, EPA/600/D-90/026) Here is the rather cryptic summary. We recommend that you download Tables 3-13 and 3-14 (start on p 48 of the long report). These tables are the Organic Compound Emission Factors and Rates with lists of the most significant carcinogens and addictive substances produced per hour. What is most significant to the editor is the lack of health data on the participants.  
     
  In February of 1995 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission received a report on indoor pollutant Emissions from, EPA Phase II Wood Stoves: Normalizing for the rate of wood consumption during each test, the average B[a]P source strength is 32 ng/kg of wood burned and the average 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. As time and funding permit we will scan in these charts. (NISTIR 5575) U.S. Department of Commerce. Why have parents and the public not been informed of the real facts in these reports?  
     
  Relative Sizes of Particles and Comparison of Dimensional Units  
     
  1 micron is a millionth of a meter or 1 inch divided into 25,400 parts  
     
  Particulate pollution in the past decade has been measured as PM10 that is particulate matter 10 microns in diameter or less, which is talcum powder size. Recently the focus has shifted to smaller diameter particles, PM2.5, which denotes all particles 2.5 microns and smaller (bacteria sized). These small sizes are thought to be more injurious because they are deeply respirable, becoming lodged in the farthest recesses of the lungs. Smoke from wood combustion is almost entirely in this range.  
     
  "Contribution of wood smoke to air particle pollution. In winter, there is more air particle pollution caused by wood smoke than any other single source. ... "  www.epa.nsw.gov.au/woodsmoke/default.htm - 23k  
     
  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.  
     
  Also see: Tables:Wood smoke Weights. (as pdf, size13KB) (be sure to see references for tables.)  
     
  Chemicals listed here are only the tip of the iceberg - combustion variables lead to hundreds if not thousands of chemical combinations. Some are sweet smelling vanilla and others are known to be the most toxic chemicals on earth.  
     
  This information was published in 1993 EPA Report, A Summary of the Emissions Characterization and Noncancer Respiratory Effects of Wood Smoke, EPA-453/R-93-036 It can be ordered from the EPA at (919)-541-5344.  
     
  Medical Effects of Wood Smoke Chemicals  
     
  Dioxin  
     
  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.  
     
 
 
 
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