Cooking over wood: "Daily News Brief -- Breaking News from the Public Press,The October 15, 2004 Reuters reports,
according to the World Health Organization (WHO) some 1.6 million people, mainly small children die each year from a "kitchen killer" - - disease brought on by inhaling smoke from cooking stoves and indoor fires. According to the WHO, "indoor air pollution remains a silent and unreported killer." The article reports, nearly half of the world cooks using fuels like dung, wood, agricultural residues and coal, which give off a poisonous gas that "more than doubles the risk of respiratory illness such as bronchitis and pneumonia."
Heating with wood: "April 2000 Why is Woodburning an Air Pollution Problem? What Are the Health Effects? What Are the Solutions?
In most areas of the country, woodburning from fireplaces and woodstoves is the largest source of particulate matter air pollution (PM) generated by res idential sources. In some localities, fireplaces and woodstoves have been identified as the source of 80% or more of all ambient particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) during the winter months. A large body of evidence links PM with adverse health outcomes, including excess mortality, especially among those with preexisting cardiopulmonary illness.
Fireplaces and woodstoves, and even special equipment such as wood pellet combustors and EPA Phase II Certified woodstoves, produce orders of magnitude more particulate matter than well-tuned oil or gas devices producing equivalent heat. Moreover, woodstoves routinely produce several times more air pollutants than original design values simply because of improper operation (including their misuse as incinerators for residential refuse), maintenance, and normal equipment degradation with use.
In addition to particulate matter, woodsmoke emissions contain components such as carbon monoxide; various irritant gases such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde; and chemicals known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and dioxin.
Monitoring of airborne particulate matter and PAH levels in many residential areas across the country shows that exposure to these pollutants is consistent with the use pattern of residential wood combustion. The sites studied are far from industrial sources and the times of maximum pollutant levels do not correlate with local traffic activity. Outdoor PAH levels in such residential areas have reached 2 micrograms per cubic meter during holiday evenings - comparable to the maximum recorded PAH concentrations in secondhand tobacco smoke.
Studies have also shown that people using woodburning devices to heat their homes can be routinely exposed to excessive levels of fine particulate matter in their indoor air.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH EFFECTS? Findings from animal studies demonstrate a reduction in disease resistance associated with woodsmoke exposure. Woodsmoke exposure can disrupt cellular membranes, depress immune system activity, damage the layer of cells that protect and cleanse the airways, and disrupt enzyme levels.
The health effects of woodsmoke exposure include increased respiratory symptoms, increased hospital admissions for lower respiratory infections, exacerbation of asthma, and decreased breathing ability. Population studies have shown that young children, the elderly, and people with preexisting cardiopulmonary disease are most likely to be affected.
As a major contributor to particulate matter air pollution, woodsmoke can also be linked directly with a variety of other particulate matter-associated health effects, including increased risks of school absenteeism, emergency room visits and hospitalizations for cardiopulmonary conditions and premature death.
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?
The American Lung Association recommends that individuals avoid burning wood in homes where less polluting heating alternatives are available. The use of the least-polluting alternative heating methods and cleaner technologies should be promoted to provide useful heat, while minimizing any adverse health effects. For consumers who are considering replacing their wood-burning appliances with gas-burning appliances, ALA recommends choosing vented appliances whenever possible, to minimize potential indoor air quality problems. Join us in our mission to prevent lung disease and promote lung health."
Wildfires: "October 2003 Wildfires are an ongoing concern, particularly in the Southwest and Midwestern U.S., where there is dry, hot weather. During a wildfire, people all over the area may be suffering the effects of forest fire smoke. The American Lung Association urges those with respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis and also those with chronic heart disease to monitor their breathing and exposure to airborne matter. If problems develop call your physician immediately.
People living in close proximity to the fire-stricken areas should remain indoors and avoid inhalation of smoke, ashes, and particulate matter in the area. Ordinary dust masks, designed to filter out large particles, will not help as they still allow the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Special, more expensive dust masks with true HEPA filters will filter out the damaging fine particles but are difficult for people with lung disease to use. Consult with your physician before using a mask, especially if you have a lung disease.
If you live close to or in the surrounding area, it's recommended that you refrain from exercising outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or notice eye or throat irritation.
Extra precaution should be taken for children, who are more susceptible to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing and they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) per pound of body mass than adults.
When driving your car in smoky areas, keep your windows and vents closed. Air conditioning should only be operated in the "recirculate" setting.
People with respiratory problems and chronic heart disease should:Stay inside as much as possible, with doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and/or air cleaners and purifiers. Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved into the room.
Due to the higher levels of pollutants in some areas, there is a possibility of experiencing increased symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms, please try to contact your physician. If you cannot, asthma patients can follow the asthma action plan developed with their physician. Use your peak flow meter if prescribed. Do not hesitate to take your medication, and avail yourself of the full spectrum of medications your doctor has prescribed to you. If outdoor trips in smoky areas are necessary, breathe through a damp cloth to help filter out particles in the air.
People with asthma should check with their physician regarding any changes in medication that may be needed to cope with the smoky conditions. People using oxygen should not adjust their levels of intake before consulting a physician. (Call your doctor BEFORE you take any action.) If pulmonary symptoms are not relieved by the usual medicines, seek medical attention. Symptoms to watch for: wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty taking a full breath, chest heaviness, light headedness, and dizziness. If you have any concerns or questions please contact your physician. If you develop a persistent cough, or difficult or painful breathing, call your physician. The onset of symptoms can appear as late as 24 to 48 hours after exposure and that smoke can remain in areas for many days after the fires have ended.
In relation to clean up, residents and volunteers should use caution since the clean-up process involves ashes and other particulates: People with lung or heart problems should avoid clean-up activities and areas where dust or soot are present. Thoroughly wet dusty and soot area prior to clean-up. This will help to reduce the amount of particulates becoming air-borne. Wear an appropriate dust mask during clean-up. If exposure to asbestos or other hazardous materials are suspected, do not disturb the area. Dust masks do not protect against asbestos." ALA