While all smoke is harmful, uncertified OWBs generate more particulate pollution than indoor wood stoves. The units are designed to burn wood at lower combustion temperatures and generally have shorter stacks which emit smoke at house level. Wood smoke releases fine particulates ("soot"), carbon monoxide, and other toxic pollutants. While the new certified OWBs produce less smoke, wood smoke in any form is a potential human health problem. As more and more families turn to wood for their energy, the devices they use need to be cleaner and cleaner in order to maintain Vermont’s air quality.
Children, whose lungs are still developing, and people with health, heart or lung problems such as coronary artery disease, asthma, or emphysema are especially affected by smoke. Legitimate health concerns account for the majority of nuisance complaints and have resulted in many municipalities and states passing regulations to protect the public health.
Concerns about health impacts and general air pollution have prompted states in the Northeast and Midwest and the US EPA to adopt programs limiting the smoke from OWBs. Regulation of OWBs took a major step forward in 2015 when the EPA promulgated new regulations governing the manufacture and sale of OWBs across the nation.
Want to learn more?
The Dangers to Health from Outdoor Wood Furnaces, Environment & Human Health, Inc. 2010
Health Consultation, Michigan Department of Community Health & US Department of Health and Human Services, 2009
Guidance for Health Professionals, Wisconsin Division of Public Health, 2005
Health Effects of Wood Smoke, Washington State Department of Ecology, 1997
Increased use of outdoor wood boilers..., Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2005
In-Field Fine Particulate Monitoring of an Outdoor Wood Boiler: Public Health Concerns, Johnson, NESCAUM, 2006
Smoke Gets in Your Lungs, State of NY, Office of the Attorney General, 2005
What is Particulate Matter?, American Lung Association
Woodsmoke Health Effects: A Review, Naeher et al., Inhalation Toxicology, 2007