A crackling fire evokes fond memories for many, but wood smoke has consequences. Wood smoke is a complex mixture of fine particles, many of which are toxic and known to cause cancer.
Breathing wood smoke can harm everyone, but children are most vulnerable because their lungs are still developing. Also at higher risk from wood smoke are infants, the elderly, and those with existing heart and lung ailments.
During the heating season, wood smoke can account for up to 80% of the air pollution in our residential areas. Wood smoke is also an indoor air quality concern, especially if the device is older or and not been properly installed to code.
To keep Spokane’s air quality within acceptable, health-based standards, Spokane Clean Air enforces state and local wood smoke regulations. These regulations are related to the purchase, installation and operation of wood burning devices and are summarized below:
- Chimney smoke must be within legal limits. There is a limit on how much smoke can come from chimneys. Smoke density is referred to as opacity. State and local regulations limit the density of chimney smoke to 20% opacity. After a brief start-up period, wood smoke must be within the state’s opacity limits, meaning mainly heat waves or just barely a wisp of smoke.
- Burn Bans are issued when fine smoke particles become concentrated and are not readily dispersing due to stagnant air. The type of ban depends on the level of pollution and weather forecast.
- Stage 1 Burn Ban (color-coded YELLOW) prohibits the use of non-EPA certified wood stoves and inserts. Uncertified stoves release significantly more air pollution than certified stoves. Most wood burning stoves that were made prior to 1995 are not EPA-certified.
- Stage 2 Burn Ban (color-coded RED) all wood heating is prohibited unless an exemption has been granted by Spokane Clean Air. Contact Spokane Clean Air for exemption details.
- Only dry, seasoned wood, or manufactured logs and pellets may be burned. Any other material is illegal to burn. Wood should be cut, split, stacked and covered 6-12 months to properly dry (season).
Purchasing, installing and selling wood stoves and inserts. Any wood burning device offered for sale, sold, or given away to Washington residents must have testing data that it meets the more stringent state emissions standards, listed below. Before selling, purchasing or installing a wood burning device, check with Spokane Clean Air. A permit and inspection from your local building department is required to install a wood burning device. Lists of stoves, fireplaces and inserts that meet Washington Emissions Standards are linked from Ecology’s webpage.
Health impacts from wood smoke - Wood stoves, fireplaces and inserts emit tiny, microscopic particles into the air. When inhaled, these fine particles travel deep in the lungs, causing damage to sensitive lung tissue. Several studies have been conducted over the years linking fine particle exposure to health effects. Here's a summary of some of these studies:
A webinar presented on July, 28, 2011 - Dr. C Arden Pope III, BYU
Additional educational materials:
Heating with Wood Russian translation - (Требования и руководство для отоплении дровами)
Videos - Note: These videos are in Window's Media Video format (.wmv) and Window's Media Player is recommended for playback. A high- speed Internet connection is also recommended for viewing.
A Quick Guide on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat
Different fuel choices come with an array of environmental, economical and health considerations. If you are considering a wood stove or fireplace insert for your home, or upgrading your old wood stove to something that heats cleaner and more efficiently, take a few minutes to determine which device and fuel choice best fits your needs.
· Video 4 min. 52 secs., 9.5 MB
How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently
Simple changes to the way your burn in your stove or fireplace can help reduce smoke, reduce needed fuel and save you money. Learn how to minimize smoke, increase the heat you get from your wood and limit your impact on your neighbor.
· Video 4 min. 24 sec., 8.8 MB
Firewood, from the Forest to the Shed
Produced by Environment Canada about good firewood preparation and good firewood practices.
· Video 10 min. 30 sec, 18.4 MB
· Video transcripts