What You Burn Matters: Minimize the Risk

Health Department warns of dangers of burning damp wood and trash to stay warm 

NM Department of Health(Santa Fe) – During the winter, many New Mexicans use their wood?burning stoves to stay warm.

 During the wintertime, residential wood smoke is the main source of fine particle pollution causing poor air quality inside the home. Burning the right wood, the right way, in the right wood?burning appliance can reduce harmful air pollution.

When you use your wood stove, the New Mexico Department of Health recommends that you burn dry, seasoned wood to reduce particle pollution. Wet wood is a problem for your health and your pocketbook. It creates a lot of smoke and burns inefficiently, meaning the heat literally goes up in smoke. Buy an inexpensive moisture meter at a hardware store to test the wetness of your wood before burning. Wood should only be used if the moisture content is 20 percent or less.

Particle pollution in wood smoke can affect everyone, but people with lung disease, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or people with heart disease are the most vulnerable. Particle pollution can trigger asthma attacks, increase symptoms of COPD and cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. For people with heart disease, particle pollution is linked to heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and stroke. Learn more about heart attacks at https://nmtracking.org/en/health_effects/cardio_heartattack/ and asthma at https://nmtracking.org/en/health_effects/asthma/ or http://www.health.state.nm.us/eheb/.

The New Mexico Department of Health recommends:

  • Burn only dry, well?seasoned wood to reduce particle pollution.
    • Never burn household garbage, cardboard, plastics, foam, colored ink on paper/boxes/wrappers, coated/painted/pressure?treated wood, plywood, particle board, any wood with glue on it, or driftwood as they all release toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Keep the doors of your wood?burning appliance closed unless loading or stoking the live fire. Harmful chemicals, like carbon monoxide, can be released into your home.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Know about safe wood?burning practices if you have underlying heart or lung disease.

Get more “burn wisely” tips from the New Mexico Environmental Public Health Tracking program: https://nmtracking.org/fire.

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