Health & Environment

“State health and environmental agencies have received a growing number of complaints from owners and neighbors that OWBs produce thick, acrid, foul smoke that permeates buildings and homes, causing not only a nuisance, but also environmental degradation and health problems.” NY Attorney General’s Report

While all smoke is harmful, old style outdoor wood boilers generate more particulate pollution than indoor wood stoves. The units are designed to burn wood at lower combustion temperatures and generally have shorter stacks which emit smoke at house level. Wood smoke releases fine particulates (“soot”), carbon monoxide, and other toxic pollutants. While the new certified OWBs produce less smoke, wood smoke in any form is a potential human health problem. As more and more families turn to wood for their energy, the devices they use need to be cleaner and cleaner in order to maintain Vermont’s air quality.

Children, whose lungs are still developing, and people with health, heart or lung problems such as coronary artery disease, asthma, or emphysema are especially affected by smoke. Legitimate health concerns account for the majority of nuisance complaints and have resulted in many municipalities and states passing regulations to protect the public health.

Concerns about health impacts and general air pollution have prompted states in the Northeast and Midwest and the US EPA to adopt programs limiting the smoke from OWBs. Manufacturing are cooperating and redesigning their OWBs to meet new particulate emission standards.

Want to learn more?

Health Links

  1. The Dangers to Health from Outdoor Wood Furnaces(pdf), Environment & Human Health, Inc. 2010
  2. Health Consultation (pdf), Michigan Department of Community Health & US Department of Health & Human Services 10/09
  3. American Lung Association of Maine Position Statement: Outdoor Wood Boilers 3/06
  4. Guidance for Health Professionals (pdf)
  5. Health Effects of Wood Smoke (pdf)
  6. Increased use of Outdoor Boilers causing some air quality concerns (pdf)
  7. In-Field Fine Particulate Monitoring of an Outdoor Wood Boiler: Public Health Concerns – Johnson, NESCAUM 2006 (pdf)
  8. Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Incidence of Cardiovascular Events in Women NEJM 2/1/07 (pdf)
  9. Short-term Exposure to Fine Particulate Air Pollution Increases Risk of Heart Attack for Those with Clogged Arteries 2006 (pdf)
  10. Smoke Gets in Your Lungs (pdf) State of NY, Office of the Attorney General
  11. What is Particulate Matter? American Lung Association
  12. Woodsmoke Health Effects: A Review (pdf)