Millions of households across the U.S. use wood stoves, fireplaces, and other wood-burning devices as a primary or secondary source of heat. Residential wood burning produces a multitude of air pollutants – most prominently particulate matter, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer, and other systemic health effects. Wood burning also releases carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and toxic pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Because we spend the large majority of our time inside buildings – especially inside our homes – much of our exposure to air pollutants from wood-burning devices takes place indoors. Smoke that goes out a chimney can reenter the same home and also enter the homes of neighbors. People who burn wood inside their homes may also be exposed to smoke that escapes the device directly into the living space.
Many jurisdictions can benefit from policies and programs that protect public health by reducing emissions from residential wood-burning devices. This report supports such efforts by describing existing policies that employ a range of strategies to advance two complementary goals: changing how and when wood is burned in homes; and replacing existing wood-burning devices with lower-emitting alternatives.
This report and other policy resources on indoor environmental quality are available through ELI’s Indoor Environments program: www.eli.org/buildings.