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Opinion

September 16, 2013

Wood stove emissions aren't healthy

In his letter to the editor, “Risks of gas drilling are too great,” which appeared on Sept. 9, Mr. Crowell brags that he has been heating with firewood for 21 years, saying “There’s a winner.”

However, there are those who would no doubt disagree with Mr. Crowell’s assessment regarding wood heat. In an article titled “An Engineer’s Perspective on Heating with Wood and Other Solid Fuels,” http://burningissues.org/freedman.html, Curt M. Freedman, M.S.E.M., P.E., writes:

“There can be significant health impacts; a wood stove is 500-1,000 times dirtier than a modern oil burner.

Wood smoke emissions contain fine particulate pollution and can have similar detrimental health effects as tobacco smoke. Experts have documented that the chemical components in wood smoke cause irritation to the respiratory system, causing bronchitis, asthma and sinus infections weakening the immune system, resulting in a lower resistance to infectious diseases.”

And his assessment seems to be backed up by two studies quoted in the article. The first, an EPA report: “A Summary of The Emissions Characterization and Non-Cancer Respiratory Effects of Wood Smoke,” 1993, says “Wood smoke is significantly associated with respiratory function decrements in young children with asthma.” The reports adds that in the Seattle area, “60 percent-90 percent of particles in residential neighborhoods ... are from wood burning year round.”

The second, a NRDC report: “Danger in the air,” 1996, points out that “Individuals can also help reduce particulate pollution through simple steps such as using energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, maintaining cars properly, insulating homes and curtailing use of wood stoves for home heating in favor of cleaner fuels.”

Burning wood may work for Mr. Crowell. However, that might not be the case for those unfortunate enough to live downwind from his house.

Catherine Lake Ellsworth

Cooperstown

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