Article of Interest: Wood Burning at Home Puts Residents and Neighbors at Risk

Our team at the Hoffman Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) Program at UT Health San Antonio wanted to share this important external article:

Wood burning at home now biggest cause of UK particle pollution:

“Domestic wood burning has become the single biggest source of small particle air pollution in the UK, producing three times more than road traffic, government data shows.

Just 8% of the population cause this pollution by burning wood indoors, according to a separate government-commissioned report. It found almost half of those burning indoors were affluent and many chose a fire for aesthetic reasons, rather than heat”

You can read the original report from the United Kingdom’s government at National Statistics: Emissions of air pollutants in the UK, 1970-2019—Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5):

The particles classified as PM2.5 are tiny–just 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter. There are 10,000 microns in a centimeter or 25,400 in one inch. Larger (but still very small) PM10 particles are between 2.5 and 10 microns in diameter.  These particles damage the lungs and precipitate asthma attacks. PM2.5 particles are small enough to cross from the lungs into the bloodstream and deposit in other organs such as the brain.

Originally, people burned wood for light, cooking, and warmth. This is still true in many countries.

However, in industrialized countries, much residential wood burning is done for enjoyment or ambiance, with little understanding of how much indoor and outdoor air pollution this causes. Inefficient fireplaces and fuels, such as wet wood, can result in copious smoke that lingers throughout the neighborhoods where people live and play.

People with chemical intolerance often report that combustion products from any source can trigger symptoms. Residential wood burning by neighbors prevents sensitive individuals from opening their windows to get fresh air or spending time outside their own homes. Greater awareness of the pollution caused by residential wood burning might change people’s behavior.

How chemically sensitive are you?

Answer these three questions from the Brief Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (BREESI):

  1. Do you feel sick when you are exposed to tobacco smoke, certain fragrances, nail polish/remover, engine exhaust, gasoline, air fresheners, pesticides, paint/thinner, fresh tar/asphalt, cleaning supplies, new carpet or furnishings? By sick, we mean: headache, difficulty thinking, difficulty breathing, weakness, dizziness, upset stomach, etc.
  2. Are you unable to tolerate or do you have adverse or allergic reactions to any drugs or medications (such as antibiotics, anesthetics, pain relievers, X-ray contrast dye, vaccines or birth control pills), or to an implant, prosthesis, contraceptive chemical or device, or other medical/surgical/dental material or procedure?
  3. Are you unable to tolerate or do you have adverse reactions to any foods such as dairy products, wheat, corn, eggs, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, or food additives (e.g., MSG, food dye)?

If you answer YES to any of these three questions, take the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI) and share the results with your doctor!

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