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Wood Heating

Burn it Smart! logoWood Heating and Air Quality Fact Sheet Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF)152KB

Many Halton residents burn wood to heat their homes or to enjoy a warm, cosy atmosphere. However, this can result in greater air pollutant emissions and a range of health impacts.

How does burning wood in my home contribute to air pollution?

Be energy wise. A well-sealed and properly ventilated home will reduce your energy needs. This will cut down on the pollution your heating appliance creates, regardless of fuel source. It will also be cheaper to operate.

Emissions from burning wood in the home can affect air quality both indoors and outdoors. These emissions contribute to smog, often being the most important source of air pollutants in residential neighbourhoods. Wood burning contributes to poor air quality by emitting the following pollutants:

  • particulate matter
  • sulphur oxides
  • nitrogen oxides
  • carbon monoxide
  • carbon dioxide
  • volatile organic compounds
  • dioxins and furans
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

As a result, your neighbours may experience a loss of enjoyment of normal use of their properties and may also have health concerns.

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How does wood smoke affect my health?

Did you know? Wood smoke contains over 100 pollutants!

Wood smoke can cause irritations such as:

  • Headache, sore throat, runny nose
  • Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath
  • Nausea, fatigue or dizziness

Wood smoke has also been linked to increased hospital admissions, asthma and other respiratory diseases, and premature death.

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Am I at risk?

Wood smoke can affect everyone’s health. Children, pregnant women, seniors and those with asthma, allergies, heart problems or lung conditions are most sensitive to smoke and its health effects. Those who work, play sports or exercise outdoors are also at risk.

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How can I reduce my exposure?

The best way to reduce exposure to wood smoke is to avoid burning wood! If you do not burn wood now—do not start! If you do burn wood, consider switching to a natural gas fireplace, which has much lower emissions than the most efficient woodstoves.

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Is there a bylaw regulating indoor wood burning in Halton?

No. However, more regulated approaches to wood burning are emerging. As these activities unfold, there are many things that you can do to take action and help reduce air pollution from wood heating. See “What can I do?” Please check with your local municipality for bylaws relating to outdoor open burning.

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What heat sources are available?

Before you decide to burn wood, it is important that you consider all available heating options.

If you have the opportunity to choose the heat source for your home, it’s important to examine environmental impacts as well as pros and cons of all the ways you can heat your home:

  • Natural gas
  • Electricity – fixed and thermostatic
  • Electricity – heat pump
  • Solar – active or passive
  • Geothermal
  • Wood pellets
  • Certified wood stove

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How can I protect the health of my family from wood smoke?

The best way to protect the health of your family and neighbours from wood smoke is by not burning wood. If you still choose to burn wood, you can decrease wood smoke pollution by improving your wood burning practices.

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What can I do?

  • Replace older wood burning equipment with new, high-efficiency/low emission units.
  • Look for a wood stove that has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency and certified by the Canadian Standards Association.
  • Start fires with newspaper and dry kindling.
  • Try a mix of different hardwoods and softwoods.
  • Burn only clean, dry and well-seasoned wood and newsprint.
  • Never burn garbage, cardboard, plastics, painted or treated wood, particleboard, plywood, and glossy magazines (these release toxic chemicals into the air).
  • Keep fires small and hot.
  • Remove ashes regularly and place in a metal container stored outside your home.
  • Dispose of ashes (cold) in paper bags and place in your GreenCart.
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year.
  • Install and regularly check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Ensure that new stoves and fireplace inserts are professionally installed by a technician certified under the Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) program.
  • If you live in a neighbourhood where wood-burning is common, keep your windows closed and seal areas where drafts occur.
  • Ask your neighbours if your wood smoke is affecting them.

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Where can I get more information about air quality in Halton?

Learn more about Halton’s air quality program.

Related Links

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