Asthma Friendly Firewood?

Asthma Friendly Firewood?

With fall in full swing, my personal favorite thing about this season is the fireplace. I love to have the whole family gathered around the brick, wood burning, heat source, cuddled up with hot chocolate and marshmallows. Nothing on earth beats that feeling. Realistically though, there is one safe way to burn wood in a fireplace, and there are more dangerous ways. Considering that 25.7 million people in the U.S. have some form of asthma, it becomes rather important to look at how we conduct our fireplaces to guarantee safe procedures. But, don’t be afraid and completely quit making fires. All you need to do is read up on how to burn safe ones!

Health Risks

In the processes of burning wood, organic and non-organic particles are released into the air. Because these particles are so small, they often slip undetected through the respiratory system. When inhaled, these microscopic particles can become very harmful as they often carry with them toxic chemicals. For people who already struggle with respiratory issues, these slight irritants can often worsen symptoms. For those without a preexisting condition, problems can arise if exposure continues and precautions are not implemented.

I do not say all this to convince you to hang up your axe and shutter up your chimney. There are ways we can burn wood in our fireplaces to help keep the harmful chemicals out of our air.

Proper Wood Burning Device

Whether it’s a wood burning stove or fireplace inserts, make sure that the device you are using is a newer, certified model. Like most things, older models can degrade and are often not as efficient as newer models. When it comes to protecting loved ones from threatening particles, it’s important to make sure that the device is the right size and is installed correctly. Better fitting devices and newer models will help increase heating efficiency and ensure the smoke is isolated, and out of the house.

Chimney Conditions

While the prevention of chimney fires is the prime motive to regularly clean a chimney, reducing the back flow of smoke is also an object. Soot, creosote build-up, and other blockages are often hindrances to the flow of the smoke. Instead of keeping the flow of the smoke up and out, these obstructions push the smoke back into the house. Regular cleanings (subject to frequency of use) can be as simple as once a year. This will not only enhance the safety of the chimney but also reduce the amount of smoke flowing into the house. For other chimney care questions, find answers here at

Burn Properly, with Smaller, Hotter Fires

A great rule of thumb for smoke reduction is the hotter the fire, the less the smoke. Though often hotter fires require more wood, more of the wood and smoke is burned leaving less particles in the air to be inhaled. Keep the fire running hotter by burning a smaller fire or using wood with a greater Btu (British thermal unit). Btu is a measurement of the amount of heat being produced by the burning of a certain material. Tree species like live oak, eucalyptus, and dogwood are hardwoods that have high Btu’s. As far as softwoods go, Douglas fir, juniper, and hemlocks have the higher Btu’s. Burning these kinds of species means that the fire will burn hotter, helping you warm the house and spare the smoke. If you are interested in other species Btu’s, consider checking out the charts here.

Burn Dry Wood

The best way to reduce smoke emissions from a fireplace is to burn DRY wood. Building a fire with wet wood seems like an oxymoron. But that’s because we don’t usually suspect that wet wood would burn. Truthfully, the wet wood refers more to the freshness of the cut, or the greenness of the firewood. If it’s a greener cut, there could be as much as 100% moisture. Not only does that mean that more smoke being produced, but much of the energy we want to heat the house is lost in steaming off the water in the wood. The efficiency is a matter of concern, but more importantly is the greater health risk. Ideally, firewood should have been split, stacked (at least 6 inches off the ground), and covered for at least a year. This give the wood time to season and dry so that it will burn hotter and more efficiently.

If someone in the home has allergies or asthma, keeping the smoke, ash, and dust levels low will also help mediate symptoms. Investing in a well-filtered vacuum cleaner will help keep particles captured and not blown back into the air as cleanings take place. Find other ways to keep the dust levels down here.

This pamphlet from the Department of Ecology is another well-written resource and offers more clarity on wood smoke as far as how it affects the body and what we can do to reduce risks.

Primarily, the importance is the safety of you and your family. Safe burn procedures help ensure that safety. So, don’t give up on making cozy fires in your fireplace. Just have us deliver safe, dry seasoned wood to your home! From our family to yours, we hope you stay safe and warm over the upcoming holidays.