With winter here, many Dane County residents are heating their homes with wood heat. The Dane County Clean Air Coalition wants to share steps you can take to reduce fine particles and other emissions that pollute the air. By learning how to burn wisely, residents who use wood stoves or fireplaces for heat can reduce their emissions from wood burning to protect their homes, their health and the air we all breathe, while reducing heating costs and staying comfortable this winter.
What’s in Wood Smoke?
Wood smoke is made up of a mixture of components such as carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and fine particle pollution that aren’t healthy to breathe indoors or out – especially for children, older adults and those with heart disease, asthma or other lung diseases. Excessive smoke from a fireplace or an old (pre-EPA certification) wood stove can affect members of your family and neighbors downwind of the source, as well as contribute to overall threats to outdoor air quality.
Winter is the Peak Emissions Period for Fine Particle Pollution
While fine particle pollution can occur year-round, activities such as wood burning, vehicle idling and energy use for heating and lighting that occur in the winter months tend to increase possibilities for higher fine particle levels in the air. A review of local fine particle emissions since 2005 identifies the winter months in Dane County as a peak emission period.
Dane County’s air quality currently meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particle pollution (PM2.5). However, the County has come close to reaching non-attainment levels for this type of pollution in the last 5 years. As the County grows and federal public health standards are strengthened to reduce the negative health impacts of criteria air pollutants, it is important that we continue to take steps to reduce our emissions.
Fine Particle Pollution Emissions from Wood Burning in Dane County
Recent EPA Region V data (up to 2008) indicate that the County contributes more than 500 tons-per-year of PM2.5 emissions through the use of non EPA-certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts. Dane County is one of only 8 counties across 6 states in EPA’s region 5 (MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH) that reached this level of fine particle emissions from non-EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts.
While no single activity will get us to cleaner air, following the burn wisely tips provide Dane County residents way to make a positive difference.
If you’re burning wood this winter, you can have a cheaper, safer and
healthier fire by following these tips:
• Burn only dry, seasoned wood. It’s better for the air and your wallet. Dry
seasoned wood is more efficient at heating your home and can add up to
significant savings over the winter. Look for wood that is darker has cracks
in the end grain, and sounds hollow when hit against another piece of
wood or consider using a wood moisture meter.
• Never burn painted or treated wood or trash as these can release a variety
of toxic air emissions.
• Maintain your wood stove or fireplace and have a certified technician
inspect it yearly. A certified technician can clean dangerous soot from your
chimney and keep your wood stove or fireplace working properly, which
reduces your risk of a home fire.
• Replace an old, inefficient stove with an EPA-certified wood stove or
fireplace insert. These models are more efficient than older models and
keep your air cleaner, your home safer and your fuel bill lower, while
keeping you warm. An estimated 12 million Americans heat their homes
with wood stoves each winter, and nearly three-quarters of these stoves
are not EPA-certified. EPA-certified wood stoves emit 70 percent less
particle pollution and are approximately 50 percent more energy efficient
than wood stoves manufactured before 1990. Go to the U.S. EPA’s Burn
Wise website for more information: http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/
• If you have another source of heat, do not use your fireplace or wood
stove on winter days that are forecast to be Clean Air Action Days for fine
For more air pollution reduction ideas for Dane County residents and employers, visit www.healthyairdane.org.