Many people don’t think of wood smoke as a major health or environmental concern, but the truth is quite the opposite. Wood smoke contains many harmful carcinogens in addition to sulfur, mercury, nitrogen-oxides, and carbon-dioxide. Soot and ash are additional problems as they can work their way deep into lung tissue. All totaled, one wood stove or boiler can have thousands of times the emissions of one using natural gas – contributing greatly to health and environmental degradation.
One of the principal problems with wood-burning is that the impacts are often local. Wood smoke is released close to the ground from low chimneys or smoke stacks, where the soot and toxins mix with the ambient air. This are is then breathed in by local residents, causing new medical conditions and aggravating existing ones.
Washington State has put together an informational booklet about wood-smoke, available here, that goes into greater detail about its impacts on health and the environment, best practices, and what you can do in your community. Also check out our resource page for more information on biomass and the impacts of wood-smoke.