Experts issue fresh health warning about wood burning stoves

In December 2019 Health Canada published warnings about the dangers of emissions from wood burning stoves under the title “Wood Smoke.” It emphasized that some groups are especially vulnerable, including people with heart or lung problems and children because their respiratory systems are still developing, and they tend to be more active and inhale more air.

Now, under a headline “Avoid using wood burning stoves if possible, warn health experts,” The Guardian newspaper has just  published details of a new report which adds to the growing body of research that reveals such pollution may be damaging every organ in the body with effects including heart and lung disease, diabetes, dementia, reduced intelligence and increased depression. That report was issued last month by the Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Partnership. Sarah MacFadyen, Head of Policy at the Partnership, stated, “We know that burning wood and coal released fine particulate matter (PM2.5) the most worrying form of air pollution for human health. It is therefore important to consider less polluting options to heat your home or cook with, especially if coal or wood is not your primary fuel source.”

Dr. Nick Hopkinson, Medical Director at the Partnership, said both indoor and outdoor pollution caused by wood burning stoves caused serious health issues from breathing problems to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.

If you do use a wood burning stove because you have no other choice, it is recommended that you observe the following procedures:

  • Keep your flue open to allow plenty of oxygen in while using your stove.
  • Start your fire with clean newspaper or dry kindling.
  • Only burn clean, dry wood that has been properly seasoned.
  • Don’t burn particle board, treated wood, stained wood, painted wood, or wet wood.
  • Never start a fire in your wood stove with gasoline, kerosene, charcoal starter, or a propane torch.
  • Burn hot, bright fires.
  • Let the fire burn down to coals, then rake them into a mound towards the air inlet and stove door. Don’t spread the coals out flat.
  • Keep the doors of your stove closed at all times unless you’re tending to the fire.
  • Remove ashes from the stove on a regular basis.

Be sure to also follow MV Fire Department’s tips for safety concerning smoke alarms, as follows:

  • Under the Ontario Fire Code, every home in Ontario is required to have working smoke alarms.
  • Homeowners must ensure that smoke alarms are installed between sleeping and living areas. They are also required to maintain the smoke alarms in working order.
  • In rental accommodation, the obligation to install and maintain smoke alarms in operating condition falls to the landlord. Landlords must also provide smoke alarm maintenance information to the occupant of each unit.
  • It is an offence for any person to disable a smoke alarm. This requirement applies equally to homeowners, landlords and tenants.
  • Failure to comply with the smoke alarm requirements of the Fire Code can result in a minimum



  1. If you keep the woodstove door open and put your feet up to the fire you will get wonderful radiant heat all throughout your body.
    But don’t tell the Citidots this because they will cut down all our trees and then we won’t have firewood to keep our homes warm.

  2. MJ McCloskey

    Wow! Maybe breathe into a paper bag for a bit… because if we re-read the article it seems to be more about breathing than burning. No one is coming for your airtight. (if anyone is potentially coming for something it will be my outdoor boiler)

    The Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Partnership seem to think that people should not be going out of their way to inhale fine particulate matter from coal and wood smoke. That sounds fairly reasonable on the surface. They also ask people to consider less polluting options for heating and cooking if available. Put in context of THE UK that is also fairly reasonable. I will explain why:

    The UK, particularly England, has historically had many examples of deadly air quality issues. I assume their point is that maybe densely populated areas should not be burning wood or coal to save a couple o’ quid on the gas bill, or having a fire in an inefficient fire place simply for ambience if it can be avoided because if everyone does it they will get another Great Smog of London.

    I am in agreement that most people in this area with a history of wood burning use wood responsibly. I would also say that the environmental argument presented is reasonably sound on its surface. However, the take away here should be a reminder that the burning of anything has an environmental cost and that the smoke produced (in this case wood smoke) is not as benign as is sometimes projected so be watchful about long term exposure.

  3. Dan Olshen

    Kudos to Mr. Szczypior for highlighting the fallacies of the Guardian article. First and foremost, the Guardian and its faux news ally the BBC are completely aligned with the Green New Deal Agenda espoused by the Davos elites, JT (carbon tax progenorator), George Soros, Hollywood and Al Gore et al all of whom incidentally use private or State jets to attend these foreign functions and in the case of Al Gore whose limousines, jet and multiple mansions and lifestyle emit more carbon emissions then the entire MV.
    It would be a pleasant “legere demain” if we could all have their opulent living standards and burn clean energy according to them. The heresy here is that this so-called green energy is derived from alternate sources like Nuclear, Tar sands, Orinoco or Saudi oil, etc. The by-products of these processes to heat homes are much more deleterious to our environment then burning wood.
    The Guardian preaches to the West (mostly) on how to heat their homes with alternatives like the oil component but dismisses the unsustainable environmental damage coming from industrial and auto emissions in jurisdictions like Beijing or Mumbai where the air is replete with toxic particles and carbon residues. When I visited Taipei, Taiwan, I was shocked to observe that all motorcyclists or scooter variant drivers and passengers plus most pedestrians wore face masks in the city (a decade prior to Covid). Jostling around the city one found an acrid odor on one’s clothes and one’s lips smacked of exhaust fumes like a lip balm.
    The thesis presented by Dr. Hopkinson may apply to highly congested UK with woodlands accounting for less then 2% of their terrain so essentially, they have no derivatives to obtain a wood fuel source for heating. Alternatively, they use oil and gas and nuclear options. The most flagrant option is oil which has hit its peak producing capacity (look at the Fracking output decline over the past 5 years), and this precious resource should be conserved for its other potential necessary consumer usages such as plastic, vinyl, IPhones, Covid PPE, etc. For example, in the US where production of oil is declining to 5M barrels approximately (2020), 12 M barrels are consumed daily: the percentage used for home heating is a significant portion of that data point as evidenced by the NYC, NJ heating programs. This is completely unsustainable in the near future: using a finite resource for home heating.
    I completely agree with Mr. Szczypior that in our local environment not only is wood a preferred and environmentally sound choice and abets good woodlot management as exhibited by the Kashub pioneers in the MV who heated their homes entirely from their forest domain. The maintenance of woodlots in this mode generates future dividends for its owners if harvested in a proper manner as most MV wood suppliers and rural residents employ sound woodlot practices to generate fuel for heating.
    My thesis is to deploy wood as a heating source wherever feasible in the MV as it is truly a local resource and does not require the deployment of huge diesel engines to truck it to local depots from the Montreal East refineries with these engines being huge emitter of carbon and other toxic nitrous oxide substances which are more detrimental to one’s health then well burned wood.
    One caveat to learn from this article is that the recommendations to be adhered to are very sound and pragmatic. For example, one should only burn dry seasoned wood as a fuel source, green wood is truly a toxic emitter and anyone using green wood is not very enlightened. The other 8 recommendations should be strictly adhered to as well.
    Finally let us MV residents who burn wood put a lump of coal in the Guardian propaganda stocking.

  4. Ed Szczypior

    Ban wood burning. What next? What if people had been told that centuries ago? This sounds like another one of those initiatives by some alternative energy group or groups to turn us off the most reliable heat source that has historically serve mankind since it started rubbing sticks. The Guardian reporting on a survey conducted in 19 homes can only be viewed as a lame duck attempt to scare the public off the most traditionally historic method of survival

    People who have used and continue to use wood for heating and cooking are in fact more socially responsible that those who use other energy sources. Not only is burning wood carbon neutral, but by far emits less toxins than those gas and oil belching choices. Most people use wood responsibly to produce a healthy and safe home environment.

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