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Particles in air are nothing to sneeze about

The King City City Council approved an ordinance March 20 that placed restrictions on improper burning within the city limits after researching its negative impact on the public's health.

Specifically, the new restrictions on burning in home fireplaces and wood or pellet stoves and burning during an areawide air stagnation alert were based on information gathered by several organizations, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Some of its information is reprinted below:

Even though people have burned wood for millennia, we now know that wood smoke can impact the health of your family and others around you. It contains wood tars, gases and soot as well as chemicals like carbon monoxide, dioxins, volatile organic compounds and fine particles.

Many of these are the same toxic substances found in tobacco smoke, and it is believed that wood smoke has many of the same health consequences as tobacco smoke.

People who frequently breathe wood smoke are at risk for serious adverse health effects. One source of health problems is the fine particles in wood smoke.

Short-term exposure (hours or days) to fine particles in the air can aggravate lung disease, trigger asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

In people with heart disease, short-term exposures have been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias.

Over time, breathing fine particles in the air increases the chances of developing chronic obstructive lung disease, chronic bronchitis, cardiovascular disease or lung cancer.

Scientists have studied health patterns among people who burn wood in their homes, people who have been exposed to smoke from wildfires, and people who live in developing countries where wood is burned for heat and cooking.

There is clear evidence from this research and animal studies that exposure to wood smoke can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and worsen asthma and other respiratory symptoms.

Exposure to wood smoke may also be harmful to respiratory immune responses, leaving people more susceptible to infectious lung disease. In high concentrations, wood smoke can permanently damage lung tissue.

Higher concentrations of smoke increase the likelihood of adverse health effects.

But even at low levels, the substances in wood smoke can be harmful, so when burning wood, it is not only your family and those near the fire who may be exposed but also neighbors in the surrounding area, some of whom may have underlying health problems.

Wood smoke particles are so tiny that they remain suspended for long periods of time and readily penetrate into buildings with incoming cold air. Young children, the elderly and people with asthma, lung or heart disease are especially vulnerable to wood smoke in the air.

Stagnant conditions and winter temperature inversions result in wood smoke hanging close to the ground, where it can enter neighbors' houses through tiny cracks, open windows and vents. Wood smoke often settles into low-lying areas and can become trapped and build up to unusually high concentrations.