Holiday Wood Fires Can Be Harmful to Health

Wood-burning fires add charm to holiday events, but can also cause health complications for friends and neighbors.

Though it may be that time of the year to get cozy in front of a fire, Breathe California advises the public to refrain from burning wood this season. Like second-hand tobacco smoke, wood smoke is a trigger for those with lung-diseases such as asthma.

Even those who have no immediate health impacts can be adversely affected by long-term exposure to wood burning by reduction of lung function, chronic bronchitis or even premature death.

In the winter months, wood smoke builds up and gets trapped in neighborhood pockets that can linger for hours — even days. The particulate matter in the air can be so fine that it can enter the body through the nose or throat, and become lodged in the lungs.

"As a health care professional with an asthmatic son, I cannot stress enough the danger of wood burning on Spare the Air nights," states Karen Licavoli, vice president of programs at Breathe California. "By burning wood, you are not only endangering family members but exposing your entire community to potentially harmful smoke that can cause or exacerbate very serious lung issues."

Breathe California advises those with lung problems to eliminate burning wood and avoid exposure to wood smoke; limit outdoor activities in the evening, when wood smoke levels are highest; and avoid strenuous outdoor activity in the evening. Smoking exacerbates the negative effects of pollution on the lungs; avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Breathe California of the Bay Area fi ghts lung disease in all its forms and works with its communities to promote lung health. Learn more at



-3 #1 julie mellum 2011-12-06 04:24
This article makes complete sense to me--to eliminate wood burning before it kills us all. Not just those who are "sensitive" to wood smoke, but everyone should stop burning. Wood smoke stresses everyone's immune system at some level. Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees that citiies will remove "barriers" that prevent people with disabiliities like asthma from using and accessing public spaces like city streets, parks, sidewalks and public events. Wood smoke is an actual physical "barrier". Please don't burn wood!

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