1. Health

I love my wood burning stove, but the other day as the rain set in and I became so chilled I could break icicles off my chin, I decided to burn some wood. When I did so, I noticed that I smelled smoke, which was very irritating to my lungs, and the lungs of my husband, who has COPD.

After breathing in the smoke for much of the day, I figured something HAD to be wrong. I decided to do some research to see exactly what consequences I could suffer from a wood burning stove and how I could burn wood in it safely and more efficiently. Hence, I've written a new article with a wealth of information about wood burning stoves. I hope you find it useful:

The Health Hazards of Wood Burning Stoves

Do you have a wood burning stove? Have you ever noticed a worsening of your COPD symptoms when you used it? Please drop a line and share your comments.

October 17, 2009 at 12:17 am
(1) Kooky says:

I don’t have a wood burning stove, but for 10 years I was exposed to wood burning stoves and fireplaces on a daily basis. I guess I’m screwed!

October 17, 2009 at 3:37 am
(2) snoozie1 says:

My daughter has a wood burning stove and after being there i usually wake up coughing in the night,also all my clothes smell horrible.when my daughter comes to visit i smell it on her,when i use to smoke im sure things didnt seem to smell so strong to me.

October 17, 2009 at 1:57 pm
(3) copd says:

Kooky: No, I don’t think you are screwed, but if you are around them again, hope you read about the safety tips.

Snookie: The reason you smell smoke on yours and your daugher’s clothes are that she does not have it working properly. You should NOT smell smoke and smoke should not escape from the stove if it is in proper working condition. I hope you will send her this link as it will tell her some important safety tips. Many people don’t know about this, even I did not, so that is why I did this article. Hope it helps.

October 17, 2009 at 4:15 pm
(4) FJones3 says:

Very informative article!!! And, so well written. A lot of information for not only folks with COPD, but also for anyone with a wood burning fire place or stove.

Thank you for all of the information you provide us with!!

October 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm
(5) FJones3 says:

Does it also take oxygen out of the room. Seems I struggle when I’m in room with a fire going… or is that a myth?

Thanks again!!

October 18, 2009 at 6:54 am
(6) johnny says:

Great article. My doctor and I have discussed this matter more than once. I have trouble breathing at my daughters house when the fireplace is going. I go outdoors frequently for fresh air. A very informative article. Thanks.


October 18, 2009 at 2:17 pm
(7) copd says:

Frank, I am not sure about it taking oxygen out of the room. That is a good question, but one I would have to research.

Johnny, Thanks and I am glad you enjoyed.

April 18, 2010 at 12:39 am
(8) Jonathan says:

There are many misconceptions about woodstoves. The stoves of today are very differant than the stoves our parents burned. Any new EPA certified stove is so airtight that when the door is closed it is impossible for smoke to escape into the room. You can actually choke a fire out completely by dampering the stove down on some stoves.
If you notice, these new stoves no longer have a flue damper. That is because the stove can only breath through the given air inlets. These inlets have a damper control on them which regulates the amount of oxygen allowed into the firebox. This in turn also slows the amount of gasses going up the flue. Old stoves were not airtight like this, so when you dampered the fire at the stove it could still get air through all the seams in the door and firebox. This is why they had flue dampers. The idea was to damper the flow of gas where you had full control of it, the cylindrical flue pipe. The problem with this was that when you block the flue gas in a stove that isn’t tight the exhaust finds other ways out (into the room). Any new EPA certified stove is nearly incapable of doing this. The fire will just go out. The ability to so intricately control the burn is where the great efficiency of these stoves comes from. You just need to know how to properly control them, and understand how a wood stove burn cycle actually works.
To answer someones question about a fire pulling oxygen from the room; yes, this is very true. It only really presents a problem in new contruction homes that are built very tightly. In these circumstances some stoves have the ability to accept an outside aire kit. This means that a duct from outside connects to the air inlet for the stove, so it only breaths air from outside the house. This also increases efficiency. Pacific Energy Stoves offer a fine example of this. I run an Alderlea T4 with an outside air intake and it performs flawlessly.
Good luck, understand your stove, maintain it, and stay warm.

April 8, 2011 at 11:39 pm
(9) C.Ruth says:

Even new wood heating systems pose health risks, and are also much more polluting than cleaner fuels such as natural gas. Another problem with wood burning appliances is the smoke that inevitably escapes from the chimney, which also affects the air that neighbors breathe. The American Lung Association, and many physicians, in the US, Australia, and elsewhere, advise against heating with wood for anyone with health concerns.
Thank you for your articles.

September 11, 2011 at 1:11 am
(10) mary says:

Wood smoke is a killer-especially for down wind neighbors.I live 100 feet from a chronic burner,fire pit all summer,most nights and until she passes out with it left smoldering until dawn. Then the wood stove all winter.The prevailing winds are SSW all summer,I live exactly SSW.Never mind the smoke in the house of the burner, what about the neighbors.I ended hospitalized after over two weeks of burning and on steroids and antibiotics for months.The steroids destroyed the skin on my hands, paper thin. Massachusetts law states that if smoke is a nuisance (an understatement) the fire department will put it out,so I reluctantly called them once I realized just how sick it had made me. They immediately had the fire pit extinguished.Wood smoke contains 12 times the carcinogens as cigarette smoke.

November 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm
(11) s johnson says:

three doors away from a new log burner which is supposed

to be clean. i am wheezing, short of breath,and have had to

increase my steroid inhaler. although notified by environmental

health to stop burning they continue to burn day and night.

a nation wide campaign to inform people of the impact of log

burners (even the new ones) on health would be a good


February 23, 2012 at 9:13 am
(12) jim keeley says:

yes i have had sinus attacks every time we come up to our vacation home
just figured whats causing them

February 5, 2013 at 11:23 pm
(13) Josh says:

I dont have a furnace in my home. I only use wood. I save loads of money using wood. I think the people that have problems with need to get over it. Maybe if you took care of your bodies/didnt have genetic defects the smoke wouldnt bug you

February 24, 2013 at 12:07 pm
(14) Brian says:

While Josh has the right to damage his health he does not have the right to negatively affect his neighbours health.
MOE testing provides many conclusive results of indoor pollution from all wood burning appliances (even on the best new stoves). The ability to damp down new wood stoves encourages users to purchase stoves too large for the space they want to heat, then damp them down and get long, inefficient burns. Huge amounts of pollution escape up the chimney in this type of burn creating noxious air for your neighbourhood. Even EPA rated stoves burned by knowledgeable operaters with very clean, dry wood pollute. If your live in a densley populated area (urban) and your neighbours heat with wood your health is at risk.

February 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm
(15) sarah says:

Recently moved into a house with a woodburner and have been researching the safety and I am getting different feedback. I had burner checked and it seems ok. I can smell smoke but its only because when I open door to put more wood on some smoke escapes is this harmful ?

February 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm
(16) copd says:


Exposure to smoke from woodburning stoves is most damaging when it’s long term and cumulative. However, inhaling just a little smoke can trigger your symptoms. It’s best to cover your nose and mouth when you’re adding wood to the fire.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.