American Lung Association warns of health concerns from residential wood burning smoke exposure

Portland, Oregon (December 19, 2017) The smell of wood smoke may bring back fond memories of family traditions – but the reality is that wood smoke is a major contributor to harmful air quality conditions during our cold winters. Smoke is composed of many small carbon particles; these small pieces of organic matter from smoke, along with dust and other small particles become suspended in the air and are referred to as particulate matter. These particles, commonly referred to as PM 2.5, can be breathed deep into the lungs, harming the lungs, blood vessels, and heart. The American Lung Association warns that burning wood produces emissions that are widely recognized as harmful to human health.

“Wood smoke affects everyone, but people with lung disease, children, older adults, people with cardiovascular disease, and diabetics face greater risk,” said Carrie Nyssen, Vice President of Advocacy and Air Quality for the American Lung Association. “Short-term exposures can affect people with lung disease, causing coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks, acute bronchitis, and may increase susceptibility to respiratory infection. Long-term exposures can lead to reduced lung function, heart attacks, lung cancer, and even premature death, among other health effects.”

Residential wood burning creates many pollutants that can worsen air quality indoors and outdoors. Wood smoke produces fine particle pollution, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, and it contributes to climate change pollution. 

The American Lung Association offers these tips to breathe easier this winter:

  • If you have to burn, use clean wood that has been dried for at least six months.
  • Build small, hot fires and never burn garbage.
  • Directly vent heating devices outside the home to reduce exposure to carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and other harmful emissions.
  • If you have alternative heating options, don’t burn when the air quality is poor. Any wood burning, even with inserts, emits harmful particles that contribute to dangerous air pollution.
  • If someone in your home has asthma, COPD, or any other lung or heart condition, use a HEPA air filter in your living room and bedroom to reduce airborne particles.
  • Replace your uncertified wood stove with a clean-burning natural gas stove, propane stove, fireplace insert, pellet stove, or for an EPA certified wood stove. The EPA maintains a list of certified wood heaters. In addition, you can do an online search for “Woodstove changeout program” in your city or town to see if a program will fund the installation.


If you have further questions about lung health, or the health effects of breathing wood smoke, call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and wood smoke, contact Carrie Nyssen at the American Lung Association.

Phone: (503)718-6140 Email: [email protected]



About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

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