Those of us in Chicago know how brutal our Midwestern winters can be; frigid and to the bone. We all rush home to strip out of layers, find something warm to drink and cozy up next to our fireplace to melt away the icy weather. However, it is important to remember that your cozy fireplace could be hazardous to your health if not maintained properly.
If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, there are a few things you should know about smoke, its effects to your home and hazards to your health.
What exactly makes up wood smoke?
The smoke created by burning wood is made up of a mixture of gases and fine particles (particle pollution, particle matter or PM). Wood smoke also contains a number of toxic pollutants, such as: benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
According to the EPA, less smoke is created when wood is burned efficiently – using an EPA certified wood stove as well as dry, seasoned wood.
What are the health effects of wood smoke?
There’s something just so comforting about about the aroma of burning wood in air, sadly – it’s not that great for you, especially indoors. The biggest threat to your health comes from the fine particles found in the smoke that are so microscopic that they can get into your eyes and lungs, which could lead to a spectrum of health issues ranging from a runny nose to bronchitis. Those at risk of heart attack, stroke, asthma or heart failure can be triggered by these fine particles.
Who is most at risk?
Though wood smoke can affect everyone, children, teenagers, the elderly and people with lung or heart diseases are most vulnerable to the danger of wood smoke inhalation. New mothers and pregnant women may also want to steer clear of woodsmoke as some studies indicate that they too are at higher risk.
Now that we’ve covered some basics, here are a few easy to follow safety tips that will have your fireplace running smoothly and keep your home’s air clean and safe for your family.
You can further minimize the worry and the risk of your child burning themselves by installing a safety screen and keeping fireplace tools out of reach, including matches and lighters.
Above all, educate your children as early as possible about the dangers of fire and the heat fires generate.
Winter is when we all want to rush home, warm up and get cozy. What better way to do this than to do so without the worry of house fire, poor indoor air quality or possible health issues? This checklist should help keep your mind at ease as you warm your toes and thaw out!
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