DEEP Reminds Residents of “Best Burn” Practices to Limit Exposure to Air Pollution Caused by Residential Wood Smoke
(HARTFORD, CT) – With the arrival of seasonable winter temperatures across Connecticut, many residents are burning wood as an economical option to heat their homes. Depending on the source of the wood, it can be a cost-effective alternative to using fossil fuels. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is urging residents to protect their health and that of their family, friends, and neighbors by employing “best burn” practices to limit exposure to wood smoke, which is a hazardous air pollutant.
DEEP recommends residents burn the right wood, the right way and in the right appliance. In addition, use these “best burn” tips to reduce exposure to wood smoke pollution:
- Not all wood is the same. To reduce particle pollution, only burn dry, seasoned wood. Softwoods, such as pine or Douglas fir, need at least six months to dry, and hardwoods, such as oak, need at least a year.
- Never burn garbage, plastic, tires or treated lumber because they emit other toxic pollutants in addition to particle pollution.
- Don’t burn wet wood. Burning wet wood creates excessive smoke and burns inefficiently, meaning the heat literally goes up in smoke. An inexpensive moisture meter, available at most hardware stores, can measure the moisture content of your wood; only burn wood if the moisture content is 20% or less.
- Newer is cleaner. Old wood stoves are less efficient and pollute more than newer ones. Newer, EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts (wood stoves designed to fit into a fireplace) reduce air pollutants by 70% compared to older models. Additionally, EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts are up to 50% more energy efficient, use one-third less wood for the same heat, and help lessen the risk of fires by reducing creosote build-up in chimneys.
- Provide sufficient air to the fire; never let it smolder. A smoldering fire is neither safe nor efficient.
- Keep the doors of your wood-burning appliance closed unless loading or stoking the live fire. Harmful pollutants, like carbon monoxide, can be released into your home.
Wood smoke is a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when burning wood and other organic matter. Exposure to air pollution from wood smoke can cause adverse health effects for everyone, but may be especially harmful to children, teenagers, older adults, people with lung disease (including asthma and COPD), individuals with heart disease, people with obesity or diabetes, outdoor workers, and individuals with limited access to medical care. New or expectant mothers may also want to take precautions and limit their exposure to protect their health and the health of their children.
Particle pollution is known to trigger asthma attacks, impair lung development in children, increase symptoms of COPD, and cause burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. For people with heart disease, particle pollution is linked to heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and stroke.
The dangers of particle pollution were further recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who on January 6, 2023, proposed its decision to strengthen the primary (health-based) ambient air quality standard for particulate matter. EPA reached this decision after carefully reviewing the most recent scientific evidence and technical information that shows the current standard does not protect public health with an adequate margin of safety, and consulting with their independent scientific advisors.
For more information, visit DEEP’s Wood Burning in Connecticut webpage.
For information about energy assistance programs available, visit: Heating Help - Connecticut Heat Assistance Programs