Letter: Stop fireplace pollution
Published 11:17 am, Saturday, February 25, 2012
Stop fireplace pollution by using
electric or gas instead
We all love to sit around a cozy fireplace with our families in the chilly winter, but what many people don't realize is that a fireplace releases particles into the air that can be detrimental to our health. With more than 29 million wood burning fireplaces in America, fireplace pollution has become a serious issue.
When you burn wood, the particles from the wood are released into the air and travel throughout your house. That puts anyone in the house at risk of inhaling wood particles. Short-term effects of inhaling wood particles include: breathing difficulty; coughing; sneezing; nose and eye irritation; and headaches. Long-term effects include: lung cancer; meningococcal and permanent damage to one's DNA; heart disease; and high blood pressure. According to one study, fireplace pollution caused 6,500 premature deaths in California, more than the 3,200 deaths from car crashes.
Fortunately, there are options to replace wood-burning fireplaces. Two choices are electric and gas fireplaces. If you want a fireplace that is less expensive, an electric fireplace is the way to go. Electric fireplaces can be installed anywhere in a house because they do not need vents. Electric fireplaces often have the choice of heat or no heat and the glass doors do not get hot. Gas fireplaces are another option to consider. They give off heat, look like real fires and burn cleaner.
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If you aren't in a position to get an electric or gas fireplace, there are a few ways you can burn wood more cleanly. Start a fire with softwood kindling such as pine that will burn fast and hot, then use hardwood for the rest of the fire. Hardwood may take longer to ignite, but it burns longer and more evenly, producing less harmful smoke. Hardwoods include cherry and oak. Using only seasoned, completely dry or mature wood is also important.
Cleaning out your flue is important. When wet wood burns it creates creosol that accumulates in the flue. Creosol will burn with the high temperatures of a fire.
Homeowners should have flues lined and cleaned regularly due to the risk of chimney fires and creosol buildup. Chimney fires caused by creosol are very dangerous and can cause whole buildings to burn down. Chimney fires are recognizable by black smoke. With a little care and attention, fireplaces can be enjoyed much more safely.
and Abby Zuckert
New Canaan Girl Scout Troop 50493