Tag archief: EPA

For your own health stop burning wood!!!!!!!!!

The more we study the science on wood burning, the more we are impressed with it being a major player in the air pollution battle and a unique scourge on public health. It’s like lighting up a “mini-Stericycle” in your own house.

If you are a non-smoker, burning wood in your home is probably the worst thing you can do to your own health, and even worse for your own children. Why would anyone do that? The key is to educate “burners” on what they are doing to their own families. UPHE has made a 30 sec. TV commercial now posted on You Tube, aimed at helping jump start that education process. Share it with everyone you know so we can get the word out.

This commercial explains in 30 sec. why heating your home with wood is one of the worst things you can do for your own health. From Utah Physicians for a Hea…

Stemmen tegen houtrook het kan in Utah…

Ga naar de pagina en stem voor of tegen houtrook.

Meeste stemmen zullen voor zijn, want kom niet aan de heilige kachel hoe vervuilend deze ook is.
State seeks input on proposed wood smoke ban
By Amy Joi O’Donoghue
December 6th, 2014 @ 7:25pm

Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News/File

SALT LAKE CITY — An outright prohibition on wood burning during the notorious inversion season along the Wasatch Front and in Cache Valley is under consideration by Utah pollution regulators, who want the public to weigh in on its ramifications.

The proposal will be put out for public comment from Jan. 1 to Feb. 9, after a Wednesday vote by the Utah Air Quality Board, which will also hold seven public hearings early next year in the impacted counties.

“I know this is a really contentious issue, and people have strong opinions about this,” said board member Kathy Van Dame, adding she’s glad there will be broad public outreach. “I really hope we can do some effective listening to each other.”

Any ban would not be implemented until the start of the 2015 inversion season on Nov. 1 and is under consideration by the board at the request of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

“We have to tip our hats to him,” said Brian Moench, president of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “We were not sure if he would press forward with this.”

Herbert first called for stricter controls on wood burning nearly a year ago in his State of the State address, citing Utah’s notorious air quality problem as a top issue that has to be tackled on both a state regulatory level and by a shift in personal choices.

The ban would be for those counties that remain out of compliance with federal clean air standards for PM2.5, or fine particulate matter. Those areas are Salt Lake and Davis counties, Weber and Utah counties west of the Wasatch Mountain range, portions of Tooele and Box Elder counties, and Cache Valley in Cache County.

Wood smoke is the most toxic form of community pollution that there is. … Wood smoke in a residential area does not disperse well.

–Dr. Brian Moench, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment

A pollution alert system that includes mandatory no-burn or action days already exists in Utah’s nonattainment counties when pollution reaches a certain level, but enforcement is difficult, and regulators worry about the extent of compliance.

In the last legislation session, Utah lawmakers ponied up $250,000 for an education campaign aimed at stoking public awareness over wood smoke with radio spots and other outreach.

The education campaign is different from aneffort to convert those households that rely on wood or other solid fuel burning as their “sole” source of heat. Those residences are already on a registry, eligible for another pool of money to cover costs of conversion to electric or natural gas heat.

With a wood-smoke ban, that action targets households that burn wood or other fuel to augment in-place heating systems or for ambience, and the commercial, industrial and institutional food preparation, such as meat smoking operations or restaurants with wood-fired pizza ovens.

Joel Karmazyn, an environmental scientist with the division, said there has been a push by some to exempt wood-smoke sources above the 7,000-foot elevation from the ban and to carve out other exemptions for certain types of businesses.

Moench said wood smoke is a health hazard every bit as dangerous as secondhand cigarette smoke and should be regulated out of public exposure.

“Wood smoke is the most toxic form of community pollution that there is,” he said, adding that exposure permeates neighborhoods because of the poor choice of one household.

“Wood smoke in a residential area does not disperse well.”

But John Mortenson with Energy Distribution Systems — a local distributor of wood stoves and fireplaces — said an outright ban on all wood burning is an excessive regulatory reaction to the pollution problem.

“To be asked to give 100 percent compliance on a complete burn ban is not reasonable. A more balanced and proportionate approach would be better,” he said.

Mortenson said it would make sense to encourage people to upgrade to EPA-certified, cleaner burning stoves and work toward phasing out the least efficient and most polluting appliances.

Dr. Brian Moench: “houtstoken vervuilt de lucht”

My view: Wood burning hurts Utah air quality

Dr. Brian Moench is the president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. BRON

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 11 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Last January, much to his credit, Gov. Gary Herbert called for a wintertime ban on wood burning in our worst polluted counties. His proposal deserves community-wide and legislative support.

Our dreaded winter inversion season is just around the corner. We can expect more rallies, more legislation, more debates between lawmakers and clean air advocates and more national and international notoriety for our sometimes “worst in the nation” pollution. Last January, much to his credit, Gov. Gary Herbert called for a wintertime ban on wood burning in our worst polluted counties. His proposal deserves community-wide and legislative support.

gaskachel - bellfires -Flat Bell hidden door

DIT IS EEN GASHAARD !!!!! OOk lekkere gezellige vlammen zonder PAK’s

Wood burning in a fireplace, stove or boiler has become an anachronism for a modern-day urban area. In many cities, Salt Lake included, wood burning accounts for as much winter time pollution as all our cars. But for multiple reasons, the health consequences are far greater than even the bulk contribution wood smoke makes to overall community pollution levels.

Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in your chimney doesn’t stay in your chimney. It also doesn’t equally distribute throughout the valley. Residential wood smoke, from a short stack or chimney, disperses very poorly, especially during stagnant, inversion circumstances. 628x471 (3)The end result is that where people spend the most time during the winter — in their own homes and neighborhoods — one neighbor burning wood can create significantly higher outdoor pollution levels than what registers at the nearest DAQ monitoring station, which may be miles away.

Wood smoke is comprised of extremely small particles, smaller even than what is formed from tailpipes and industrial smokestacks. Particles this small stay in the atmosphere longer, easily penetrating virtually any home no matter how tightly sealed. Studies show when your neighbor lights up his wood-burning appliance, you can experience in your own home levels of wood smoke pollution 75-88 percent as high as outside. Furthermore, even when a storm clears the air outside, the indoor pollution in your home lingers much longer, accumulating on every household surface. That means even when Salt Lake Valley has overall good air quality and no restrictions apply to wood burning, your wood-burning neighbor can create Beijing, China, levels of air pollution in your home.

Making matters worse, these smaller particles are more easily inhaled, more difficult to exhale and more easily penetrate individual cells once they gain entrance to the body. epaThe EPA has estimated that for an equal volume of particulate matter, the potential to cause cancer is 12 times greater for wood smoke than for secondhand cigarette smoke.


The dangerous profile of wood smoke doesn’t end there. PM 2.5 are fine particles that pose great threat to your health. Wood for fires is infested with these particles. Not all PM 2.5 is equally toxic; PM 2.5 from wood smoke may be the worst kind, in part because it is highly concentrated with dangerous compounds like heavy metals, formaldehyde, dioxins and PAHs. Burning 10 pounds of wood for one hour releases as many PAHs as 6,000 packs of cigarettes. No one in their right mind would think that sitting in front of 6,000 smoldering packs of cigarettes every hour during a cozy winter evening is a good idea.

tumblr_ljlzefrLRE1qho75xo1_500_largeOnce the health hazards of secondhand cigarette smoke were firmly established, ordinances were passed to protect people from it. Scientifically, we are at that stage now with wood burning. We should not allow a few wood burners to so profoundly affect the air quality for the entire community.

tumblr_lhxe7ygLjp1qbmheuo1_500_largeMore than likely your neighbors would not choose to sacrifice their health for your freedom to burn wood. A civilized society would suggest they shouldn’t have to.

Dr. Brian Moench is the president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

Dr. Brian MoenchDr. Brian Moench is the president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you.



How Smoke from Fires Can Affect Your Health

US EPA Office of Air and Radiation
EPA 452/F-02-002
May 2003
View or print brochure in PDF (2 pp., 445KB, about PDF)

Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you.

A picture of a farm in the distance, surrounded by a smokey hazeIf you are healthy, you’re usually not at a major risk from smoke. Still, it’s a good idea to avoid breathing smoke if you can help it.

Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn. The biggest health threat from smoke comes from fine particles. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. Fine particles also can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases – and even are linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions.

Some people are more susceptible than others:

If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or asthma, you may experience health effects earlier and at lower smoke levels than healthy people.

Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people.

Children also are more susceptible to smoke for several reasons: their respiratory systems are still developing; they breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults; and they’re more likely to be active outdoors.

How to tell if smoke is affecting you:

An image of an elderly lady watching television for news alerts and a smaller picture of a young girl testing her breathing ability

Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, headaches, stinging eyes or a runny nose. If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse.

People with heart disease might experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, or fatigue. People with lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as usual, and they may experience symptoms such as coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.

When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience some of these symptoms.

Image of satellite image showing smoke conditions in the western United States

Protect yourself!

It’s important to limit your exposure to smoke – especially if you may be susceptible. Here are some steps you can take to protect your health:

Pay attention to local air quality reports. Stay alert to any news coverage or health warnings related to smoke. Also find out if your community reports EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI, based on data from local air quality monitors, tells you about the daily air quality in your area and recommends precautions you can take to protect your health. As smoke gets worse, the concentration of particles in the air changes – and so do the steps you should take to protect yourself.

Use visibility guides, where they’re available. Not every community has a monitor that measures particle levels in the air. In the western United States, some areas without air quality monitors have developed guidelines to help people estimate the AQI based on how far they can see. Check with your local air quality agency to find out if there’s a visibility guide for your area.

If you have heart or lung disease, if you are an older adult, or if you have children, talk with your doctor about steps you should take to protect yourself if smoke affects your community. If you live in a fire-prone area, plan ahead! Talk with your doctor before fire season, so you’ll know what to do in a smoky situation.

Only your doctor can advise you about your specific health situation. But EPA’s Air Quality Index can help you protect yourself when particle levels are high. Check the table below for specific steps you can take.

For more information:

  • If there is an active fire in your area, follow your local news or fire web sites for up-to-date information.
  • About wildfires, including current status:http://www.nifc.gov/Exit AIRNow

About indoor air quality:http://www.epa.gov/iaq/ia-intro.html

Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it’s probably not a good time to mow the lawn or go for a run. And it’s probably not a good time for your children to play outdoors.

If you are advised to stay indoors, take steps to keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep your windows and doors closed – unless it’s extremely hot outside. Run your air conditioner, if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. Note: If you don’t have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In these cases, seek alternative shelter.

Help keep particle levels inside lower. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves – and even candles! Don’t vacuum. That stirs up particles already inside your home. And don’t smoke. That puts even more pollution in your lungs, and in the lungs of people around you.

If you have asthma or other lung disease, make sure you follow your doctor’s directions about taking your medicines and following your asthma management plan. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

If you have heart or lung disease, if you are an older adult, or if you have children, talk with your doctor about whether and when you should leave the area. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not be able to see them.

Air cleaners can help indoors – but buy before a fire.

Some room air cleaners can help reduce particle levels indoors, as long as they are the right type and size for your home. If you choose to buy an air cleaner, don’t wait until there’s a fire – make that decision beforehand. Note: Don’t use an air cleaner that generates ozone. That just puts more pollution in your home.

For more information about home air cleaners, go to: www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/residair.html

Dust masks aren’t enough!

Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks – the kinds you commonly can buy at the hardware store – are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks generally will not protect your lungs from the fine particles in smoke.

Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution
Good 0-50 None
Moderate 51-100 Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 101-150 People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
Unhealthy 151 to 200 People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion
Very Unhealthy Alert 201 to 30 People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.

Particle Pollution (PM10) and (PM2.5)

Particle Pollution (PM10) and (PM2.5)



Particle pollution (also known as “particulate matter”) in the air includes a mixture of solids and liquid droplets. Some particles are emitted directly; others are formed in the atmosphere when other pollutants react. Particles come in a wide range of sizes. Those less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) are so small that they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems. Ten micrometers is smaller than the width of a single human hair.

  • Fine particles (PM2.5). Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are called “fine” particles. These particles are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes.
  • Coarse dust particles. Particles between 2.5 and 10 micrometers in diameter are referred to as “coarse.” Sources of coarse particles include crushing or grinding operations, and dust stirred up by vehicles traveling on roads.

National Academy of Sciences and a professor of global health at the University of California at Berkeley, sounded the alarm that ……


Nearly half of the world’s population relies on fuels such as wood or dung for cooking and heating. In the 1980s, Kirk R. Smith, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a professor of global health at the University of California at Berkeley, sounded the alarm that these fuels, when burned in open fires or traditional cook stoves, produce high levels of indoor air pollution that prematurely kill about 2 million people each year—more than either malaria or tuberculosis, according to Smith. Cleaner alternatives to traditional cook stoves exist, but convincing funding agencies and decision makers to invest in these technologies requires substantive evidence of their health benefits, he says. Today, Smith—a 2012 recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement—develops inexpensive, portable electronic monitors to measure exposures to indoor air pollution in developing countries. Here, he explains how his research can aid the design and dissemination of solutions to tackle this ancient but still widespread problem.

Kirk R. Smith.

PNAS:Can you contextualize the harm from this indoor air pollution?

Smith:Most people recognize that the worst thing you can do is stick burning stuff in your mouth. The second worst thing is to have burning stuff inside your house, in your kitchen, and around your house even. A fire in the kitchen, if you’re cooking a meal, produces about the same pollution per hour in a typical house as a thousand cigarettes burning. So, if you think about a thousand cigarettes burning inside your kitchen, it’s not surprising that there are significant health effects. The big difference is that children and babies don’t smoke, but they are in kitchens and are also being exposed to the household pollution, so there’s a large impact on children.

PNAS:You have been studying this problem for decades. Why has it persisted?

Smith:We’re beginning to pin down the health effects more and more, and they’re consistent with what we know about smoking, outdoor air pollution, and second-hand tobacco smoke. But just because we know it’s a risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to fix it. And that’s a poverty issue, and it’s a technology issue, because we don’t have good stoves and fuels that meet local needs but are also clean. It’s also a behavior issue, because it’s at the household level—people have to change behavior and make a decision three times a day to use an improved stove or whatever you’re trying to promote. So, that’s where the work is needed to learn how to translate what we know about the impacts to what can be really done.

PNAS:Can you explain your approach?

Smith:The motto of my group is you don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect. There have been an awful lot of programs around the world introducing so-called improved stoves but that haven’t done any inspecting and consequently, didn’t achieve anything verifiable. But there are so many parameters that you have to do an awful lot of monitoring and evaluation or regular checking to see what’s happening and modify the program accordingly. So, we’ve been developing electronic gadgets, to try to take advantage of modern world technology in doing monitoring and evaluation of this very ancient risk factor to help us do something about it.

PNAS:What sorts of gadgets have you developed?

Smith:Some years ago, I thought of the idea of using a smoke alarm as a potential way of monitoring exposure to particles. I thought, “Smoke alarms, what are they doing? They’re measuring smoke. Maybe we could hack into it—take out the alarm and tap the signal from the sensor in it.” And that’s what we did. We also developed ultrasound-based time-activity monitors, which tell us how much time people spend in the kitchen, how much time they spend cooking or doing various activities. And then the last one that we have currently available is the stove-use monitor, which really revolutionized our ability to understand what’s going on. We don’t have to ask people anymore, we just find out whether they’re using their stove. And then we can see, for example, is it the poor woman who doesn’t use it or the woman with the poor education or the woman who has seven children as opposed to three? What are the risk factors, if you will, for adoption? How could we focus our dissemination more effectively to reach these people? However, we couldn’t do that before, because we can’t optimize something unless we can measure it. And we had no measure, except these relatively expensive and imprecise measures of just asking people.

PNAS:What have these gadgets revealed?

Smith:In our largest study, we introduced a very well-operating chimney stove in Guatemala. People liked it, they used it—8 years later, they’re still using it. We have our stove-use monitors on it. And the particle monitors showed that kitchen levels went down by a factor of 10. So that’s a very good chimney stove. But the exposures to people, because we also measured what they were actually exposed to, only went down by a factor of two. Because the people don’t spend all day in the kitchen, and those stoves don’t get rid of the smoke, they just move it around. They move it a meter and a half, it goes next door, goes in the bedroom, and downwind. What you have to do now, I believe, is eliminate it; don’t produce the stuff in the first place. We don’t deal with smoke in our cities by just moving it a meter and a half anymore. Clean combustion is the answer. So, one of the things we’re doing in Guatemala now, rather than start from an entirely new stove—because people like and use the one we have now—we’ll just make this stove cleaner, with a much better combustion chamber. So that’s what we’re working on.

The Truth About Wood Smoke Pollution


FCA_slide1 FCA_slide2 FCA_slide3 FCA_slide4 FCA_slide5 FCA_slide6 FCA_slide7

Even though humans have burned wood for thousands of years, scientists have only recently discovered just how hazardous wood smoke pollution is to our health.

Hundreds of studies have now documented the harmful health effects of wood smoke pollution. Yet many people remain unaware of the facts—or refuse to accept them.

The current situation is similar to the way we used to treat second-hand tobacco smoke—by the time the public finally accepted just how hazardous second-hand smoke was, there had already been incalculable damage to human life.

There’s good reason to be even more concerned about wood smoke pollution than about second-hand tobacco smoke, since it’s more hazardous: according to the US EPA, the lifetime cancer risk from wood smoke is estimated to be 12 times greater than from a similar amount of cigarette smoke.

The time has come for all of us to acknowledge the real dangers of burning wood.


Onze buitenlandse collega’s

Harmful Substances in Wood Smoke



Harmful Substances in Wood Smoke

If wood is burned properly, the only products that will be formed are a gas called carbon dioxide, some water which comes off as steam and a small amount of ash, which cannot burn. However, often the wood does not burn completely and it can make a lot of smoke with hundreds of different chemicals, called “products of incomplete combustion”.

Types of Air Pollutants

We can put these many different chemicals into groups of similarity called classes. Scientists know that some of these chemicals can cause problems for people, like causing disease in their lungs or heart, or making their illness worse if they are already sick.

However, there are a number of chemicals Scientists still hardly know anything about their affect on human health and research is being done to try and find out. Some of the chemicals are gases, some are liquids and others are solids. When there is more of a chemical mixed into the air than is good for us, we call it a pollutant.

What is Concentration?

Concentration is the word we use to describe how much of a pollutant is mixed with the air. There are two main ways, called “units”, that we use to describe concentration.

For particles, we use “micrograms per cubic metre”, written as “1 µg/ m3”. If you read further down, you will see a description of particles, or particulate matter.

  • If you imagine a large cardboard box that is one metre high, one metre wide and one metre deep, it will contain one cubic metre of air. It is written as “m3”. This is called the “volume” of air.
  • One microgram is one millionth of a gram. This is very tiny amount, but still large enough for us to measure. We shorten this to “1 µg”, where the Greek letter “µ” means “millionths of”, and “g” means “gram”.
  • So a concentration of one microgram of smoke per cubic metre means that there is one millionth of a gram of smoke in each cubic metre of air, and we write it as “1 µg/ m3”.

For gases, we use another unit, called “parts-per-million”, written as “ppm”. This is a little harder to explain. There are several gases described lower down on this page. For example, carbon monoxide is a gas that often occurs in air.

  • Imagine the same large cardboard box that you did before, containing a volume of one cubic metre of air.
  • If we take a tiny box that has a volume of one cubic centimetre of carbon monoxide and add it to the air in our box, we make a concentration of 1 part-per-million of carbon monoxide in air, which is shortened to “1 ppm”.

Chemicals from Wood Burning

Some types of chemicals that come from burning wood are:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Carbon dioxide is a gas that we cannot see or smell. It is given off whenever anything that contains carbon in its chemical structure is burned completely, along with water.

It is not dangerous to us in open air but it can asphyxiate us if there is too much of it in a small space. In other words, it prevents us from getting enough oxygen from the air to keep us alive. It is also what we call a greenhouse gas, which may be causing the earth to warm up.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is a gas that we cannot see, smell or taste. At very high concentrations, it is very poisonous, because it makes it very difficult for our blood to take oxygen from our lungs around to all the different parts of our bodies.

However, luckily it is very unusual to get much carbon monoxide in the outside air, except where there are many cars and trucks on busy roads, especially if they are stuck in a traffic jam. Even then, people need to be exposed for some time at the kinds of levels found in city streets, because it takes time for carbon monoxide to build up in our bloodstream.

So at lower concentrations in air, carbon monoxide can affect people with heart disease, because it makes their heart work harder to transport oxygen around their bodies. It has an Air Quality Standard of 9 ppm over 8 hours.

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)

Nitrogen oxides can be made by fire, either because the fuels used contain chemicals with nitrogen in them, or because the fire is so hot that a small amount of nitrogen from the air combines with oxygen to form them. For example, a gas flame will often make nitrogen oxides because it is very hot.

Nitrogen oxides are also made by burning fuels like petrol and diesel in the engines of cars and trucks. There are two main types made by burning: nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), although there are some others that may be made in smaller amounts.

Nitrogen dioxide may also come from some industrial factories that make a powerful acid called nitric acid, factories that galvanise steel (coat it with zinc) and others that make glass or power stations that generate electricity.

Nitrogen dioxide has more effects on our health than nitric oxide. It can irritate our lungs and cause bronchitis and other lung diseases. Over a long time, it can cause scarring of the very delicate air spaces in our lungs and reduce the amount of oxygen that they can absorb into the blood. Because of its health effects, there is an air quality standard of 0.16 ppm for an hour.

Particulate Matter

When we speak of air pollution, particles are simply small materials that can be suspended or will float in the air. Particles can be quite large, like sand, or may be too small for us to see without a microscope. A large collection of particles is called particulate material or sometimes just particulates.

Most of the particles that we find in our cities are small and very complicated mixtures of many different things. They include:

  • Dust blown by the wind from soil, or stockpiles of building materials, or industrial raw materials and products, or sometime just from the trucks that drive over dusty roads;
  • Smoke from burning wood, oil, waste materials, or even gas;
  • Pollen grains, bacteria, fungal spores, dust from wheat, barley and other cereals, tiny pieces of skin from animals;
  • Dusts and fumes from chemical processes, welding, painting, gritblast cleaning and other industrial processes.
  • Fog, mist and “smog”, which are really tiny droplets of liquid and sometimes solid particles, formed by natural processes in the atmosphere – sometimes called aerosols.

More information is available on Particulate Matter.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

This is a very large group of chemicals that contains many hundreds of chemicals of many different classes. However, they are all chemicals that contain carbon. The word Volatile in their name simply means that they evaporate easily, like water does when it dries in the sun.

Some may contain carbon and hydrogen only. Others may have carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, while some may also have other elements like sulphur or nitrogen in their molecules. Because there are so many different types, the effects of every one of them on our health may be different and are not always understood.

Also, many of these chemicals help form a type of pollution called photochemical smog, in which ozone is formed, and is found in some large cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne. We do not believe that this type of smog pollution is a problem in Tasmania.


There are many different types of aldehydes, many of which are poisonous or can irritate our eyes, nose and lungs, or are just plain smelly. Two such aldehydes are acrolein and formaldehyde. They may be in the air as gases, or mixed with particulate material.

Acrolein irritates our eyes, nose and our lungs, and is a special problem for some people who have asthma or bronchitis. It is often a product of burning wood but acrolein can also be made when fat burns, as happens on a charcoal barbecue when fat from the chops and sausages drips on to the hot beads.

Formaldehyde also irritates our eyes, nose and lungs and may cause cancer in some people. It comes from burning materials containing carbon but is also commonly used to make some types of special glues for making boats and in making particle boards for floors and walls.

Therefore, it may be found in the air near factories that make such products. It is also used for making several types of plastics, such as “Bakelite” and laminates that are used on kitchen tables and benches.

Formaldehyde can also come from gas stoves, or kerosene/oil/gas space heaters which do not have flues going outside the house. In many cases, formaldehyde concentrations may be much higher inside a house than outside. Some people can become very sensitive to formaldehyde so that very tiny amounts can make them sick.

Benzene, Toluene and Xylenes (BTX)

Benzene, toluene and xylenes are chemicals that are also called aromatic compounds, because they have a strong smell. They are often found in car exhaust gases, from cars or trucks burning petrol or diesel fuels but may also be made when other carbon-containing materials like wood or oil are not burned properly.

They all cause irritation to our eyes and nose and sometimes our lungs. At the levels usually found in ambient air, they are also known to have long-term effects on people’s nervous systems.

BTX are included in the new Air Toxic NEPM made in 2004. (See the Environment Protection and Heritage Council web site for details: National Environment Protection Measure on Air Toxics

Benzene is probably the worst of them, because it is very poisonous, affecting people’s livers and nervous systems. It probably also causes cancer. For these reasons, it has been removed from petrol, so it is much less of a problem than it was a few years ago. However, it is still made in car engines and comes out in the exhaust gases.

Toluene is not so poisonous as benzene, but is still a pollutant that comes from car exhausts. It is also found in smoke from fires and some other processes.

Xylenes (there are three of them) are often found in special paint thinners and brush-cleaning solvents or paint strippers. They are also made in car engines and wood fires. They are very irritating to our eyes, nose and lungs.

Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)

Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons are a group of chemicals that are usually formed when materials containing carbon are burned very badly. We find them in black smoke, soot and tar from burning coal, wood, heavy oil, and other things like plastic, if there has not been enough air to burn them properly.

They can also be formed when we burn our toast at breakfast. They are quite complicated chemicals that do not evaporate easily, so they are often found sticking to particles of carbon. If the particles are small enough, they will get right down into the deepest parts of the lungs and may cause disease, including cancer.

We have known for a long time that one of them, called benzo(a)pyrene, can cause cancer. In the old days, chimneysweeps sometimes developed cancer due to benzo(a)pyrene in the soot that covered them every day as they worked. Benzo(a)pyrene is also included in the new Air Toxics NEPM.

For further information

Air Specialist
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6165 4599 Fax: 03 6233 3800
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Recent onderzoek… nieuwe zorgen over giftige stoffen in hout rook

Courtesy of ci.independence.mo.us 

NORDEN, Calif.—On a frosty evening in the Sierra Nevada, smoke curling from the chimney of the Clair Tappaan Lodge is a welcome sight to chilly snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Gathering by the massive stone hearth at this landmark Sierra Club mountain hostel, guests relax in the warmth and aroma of the crackling log fire.Those same woodsy scents waft across the wintry north, as millions of fireplaces and wood stoves are lit by people seeking an environmentally friendly source of heat and ambience. But recent research raises new concerns over the toxic substances borne aloft in wood smoke.(Maar recent onderzoek werpt nieuwe zorgen over giftige stoffen in hout rook.)The tiny airborne specks of pollution known as particulate matter, or PM, produced by wood-burning stoves appear to be especially harmful to human health. Small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs, they carry high levels of chemicals linked to cardiopulmonary diseases and cancer, and they can damage DNA and activate genes in hazardous ways comparable to cigarette smoke and car exhaust.

“We found that wood smoke PM has similar toxicity and effects on DNA as that of vehicle exhaust particles,” said University of Copenhagen researcher Steffen Loft, who led a new study of air pollution from wood stoves.

Another new study, conducted in Canada, found that infants and toddlers living in areas with a lot of wood stoves and fireplaces were significantly more likely to get ear infections, one of the leading causes of childhood trips to the doctor.

Early humans began building wood fires hundreds of thousands of years ago, providing protection from predators, expanding sources of food and allowing migration to colder climates. Because wood is a “natural” material and has been an integral part of human existence for so long, many view it as a benign, cheap and renewable energy alternative.

“It’s the cave man’s television,” said John Walsh, an engineer who heats his 3,000-square-foot home with a wood stove during the brisk winters in Bozeman, Mont., describing how the graceful gyre of flames has enthralled people through the ages.

Walsh, who burns mostly lodgepole pines killed by pine beetles, enjoys the exercise of cutting and splitting the logs, as well as saving about $2,000 in energy bills a year. In addition, “wood heat is carbon neutral,” he said, because “burning it releases the same amount of carbon as having it decay.”

Wood-burning fits in with a rustic ethic. In Northern California’s nine-county Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the most frequent violations of the region’s fireplace and wood-stove restrictions tend to come from bucolic Sonoma County, home to vineyards, ranches and farms.

“These are places that are somewhat rural,” said Bay Area AQMD spokesperson Aaron Richardson, “and there does tend to be a kind of a culture of relying on wood for additional heating needs.”

However, that woodsy “link to the land” is also linked to potentially serious health risks. Vented outdoors, the smoke can pose a bigger threat to people in the community than to those sitting fireside.

Exposure to the particulates in smoke irritates the lungs and air passages, causing swelling that obstructs breathing. Wood smoke can worsen asthma, and is especially harmful to children and older people. It also has been linked to respiratory infections, adverse changes to the immune system, and early deaths among people with cardiovascular or lung problems.

“We know there’s a lot of bad stuff released when wood is burned,” said Dr. John Balmes, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. “It’s actually not that far away from tobacco smoke and smoke from fossil fuel combustion engines. They’re in the same ball park.”

Environmental Health News commissioned this story by InvestigateWest, a non-profit journalism studio focused on the environment, public health and social justice in western North America.