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Anyone else hear burning wood is the most expensive and dangerous form of heat?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Rhone, Mar 30, 2006.

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  1. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Check out these facts they're saying about burning wood, it costs more, and cancerous, and all the diseases it causes for everyone.

    http://www.pscleanair.org/burning/indoor/30-17-fact_sheet-burning.pdf

    My questions include:
    They say wood costs as much as, or more than other sources. Really, I spent $1,652 in oil heating my house last year and $800 to heat my house with wood this year. But, that is based on the price of wood in Seattle.

    They say wood smoke has far more pollutants in it than cigarette smoke and you have 12x greater risk of getting lung cancer. My question is, does it matter? Even if true, I am not putting my face into the flue and inhaling the wood smoke. Granted, some can sneak out but I believe most people find no smoke enters their house when they burn wood or reload unlike a cigarrette you're actually inhaling it.

    Anyway, interesting article.

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  2. berlin

    berlin New Member

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    I'm not sure i believe some of the "facts" certain sites like that and others use. It reminds me of some of the crap i read regarding coal for heating and how bad it is for you; as it turns out the "facts" may be right, but the place they got them from was south china, where coal is used indoors, unvented for both heating and cooking, and the coal they have there has undergone mineralization which means it has outragously high levels or arsenic, murcury and flouride. American coal, and that of most of the rest of the world has extreemely small traces of those chemicals compared to certain chinese coals, so the "facts" are completely skewed and offer no real world signifigance outside of south china.

    also, like you mentioned; often these studies of the ability to cause cancer find that wood smoke is very carcinogenic (in fact it contains more and higher concinogens than even soft coal smoke, although few realize that) but the tests that determine its effects are done outside of any realistic setting, sure u could get cancer after years of living in a chimney flue, but who does that??
  3. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    I wonder who funds this research.................. the former American Standard perhaps
  4. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Propaganda from a leftist, tree hugging, wacko environmental group.
  5. precaud

    precaud Minister of Fire

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    Todd, that was completely unnecessary...
  6. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    What a load of crap that is. Where did they come up with those figures they're ridiculous.
  7. MALogger

    MALogger New Member

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    Hi,

    Here is an article by Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the original founders of Greenpeace who incidentally has left that organization because of the direction they are heading but he tells you in the article. It talks about how using renewable sources for energy is good for the environment, good article.

    http://www.greenspirit.com/trees_answer.cfm

    Craig
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    It's easy to get defensive, but the research with regard to the effects of wood smoke are valid. In the Puget Sound region, we get temperature inversions that concentrate wood smoke over time. During a temperature inversion, it's really apparent when someone is burning wood poorly. If you have a few folks burning poorly in your neighborhood it is like sticking your head in their smokepipe. Your eyes water and lungs feel it. Now imagine how this is for a kid with asthma. Where there is a high concentration of wood or coal smoke, health problems increase. Your ancestors experienced this and some cities like London and Athens experienced this bigtime.

    While I don't agree with the economic analysis, (I'll challenge them to prove this), the health effects of concentrated woodsmoke are real. There are lots of volatiles that head into the atmosphere when one burns wood. If you are fortunate to be in an area where the prevailing winds diffuse this effect, great. Some are not. I think burning cleanly is the real message of this website. It's a priority in a densely populated region, especially when atmospherics contribute to the concentration of woodsmoke. As noted in other threads, there are folks that are my neighbors that are only stopped from burning like a smudgepot, by county enforced burning bans when the air quality becomes health threatening. I am glad to have this oversight because left to their own devices, a lot of people are only concerned about themselves.

    So I'm for wood burning, but I'm also for any and all technologies that make it as clean as possible. The Puget Sound region (with the help of Tom Oyen and others) has been a leader in establishing cleaner burning standards for woodstoves. I think we all benefit from this in the long run.
  9. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    So Green, What I've often wondered is why doesn't natures natural air cleaner take care of the problem...Rain (Something I'm sure you wouldn't know anything about :) )? I'm not saying what you said isn't true... I'm truely wondering. Is it that on those days that the weather is more thick fog that the problem is apparent? Can you explain the weather conditions better than just temp inversion?
  10. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    That fact sheet is absurd. First off, they claim that heating with hardwood is the same cost as a pellet stove. On what planet? With Pellets pushing 300/ton, and wood being free... and they complete discount the cost to the environment of preprocessing the other sources such as propane.
  11. Martin Strand III

    Martin Strand III New Member

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    EXPENSE: Burning wood is expensive relative to how much you have to pay for it.

    DANGERS:
    1. Burns - from minor to major
    2. Chimney fires - from creosote build up , infrequent cleaning, smoldering unseasoned wood
    3. House fire - from carelessness, inexperience, poor judgement, faulty equipment or combination thereof
    4. Inhalation problems - suffocation from immediate gross smoke and/or CO, chronic (possibly fatal) from PM10 and PM2.5 (small particles in lungs and bloodstream) leading to chronic respiratory problems to lung cancer
    5. Eye problems - early blindness (partial or complete) from direct effects of smoke. This is common in undeveloped countries (Peru, etc) where open fires are burned w/o chimneys indoors.

    CONCLUSION: My experience in heating with wood over 40 years: a couple minor hand burns, singed eyebrows once and lots of wood splinters reclaimed from superficial tissues. The danger for me lies in harvesting the wood, not burning it.

    Everything is relative. Some die from sunstroke while others think a little suntan is good.

    Aye,
    Marty

    Grandma used to say, "Knowledge and skill reduces risk" and my favorite, "Play with fire and you'll get burned."

    Grandpa used to say, "Fire simply waits for the innocent but stalks the careless, the ill-prepared and the arrogant."
  12. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    First thing for us all to do is give up our cars....then stop eating meat, which requires 10-15x the energy to produce (per lb of protein) than grains/legumes. Soon after we should stop using anything made of plastic.

    Words are strong medicine. Sure, as someone else mentioned, putting your face in your chimney (or toilet) can be quite dangerous to your health. But using wood in a responsible way in the vast majority of the country is, on balance, a good things.

    The amount of pollution from burning cane fields in florida and other forest fires is immense.
    So, reality look like this to me:

    1. There is little chance that more than 5% of the population will ever burn wood for a major source of heat.
    2. Many of these people live in rural or rural/surburban locations.
    3. Hopefully, more and more will use cleaner burning stoves (this is one reason Elk, I and others are unhappy with certain waterstoves, etc.)
    4. There is a place for ALL the fuels, including electric (especialy produced from PV, wind and water) natural gas and even oil. Efficiency and conservation are key.

    When we isolate one thing and try to make our choices look black or white I think we make a big mistake. This is one of my political beefs with either the right or the left wing. People want simple solutions...but you can't always have that with complex problems.

    It is a DIRECTION we must head in, and 75% efficient gas fireplaces are a heck of a lot better than 10% efficient gas logs.

    75% efficient gas appliances also (in my opinion) beat out 20-30% polluting waterstoves or open fireplaces.

    The world does not turn on a dime, and we have to sometimes take baby steps. More MPG, more public transport, more home telecommutters and more wood burners - when taken together - surely help the situation.

    In the short run, this being perhaps the rest of my life, I don't expect a major change in the USA...although some parts of the world are already on the right path. We have too many people here who have been taught from birth that selfish behavior is the best behavior (Ayn Rand?) - while the truth (IMHO) lies in a combination of civil society (either voluntary or partially legislated) along with individual reward. Unless we get a government that leads we can hardly expect the mass of people and our industry to follow along. After all, why invest billions in solar energy if the next administration decides to pull the rug out from under you?

    While we like to think government has no role, both NASA and the Military have helped create the internet and MANY other modern marvels. I should correct that and say "government money", because it was mostly private researchers that created the miracles...but they had some funding from Uncle Sam.
  13. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I'd be more persuaded about the dangers of wood smoke if someone could cite statistics showing that firefighters and smoke jumpers, for example, died from lung cancer and emphysema at substantially higher rates than the average person. I have no idea if that's the case or not, but even then, these are professions that expose the people doing them to regular, high doses of wood smoke that they breathe directly. Even in cold regions of the country where wood burning is prevalant, it's only about 6 months out of the year, not taken in regular, high concentrations. I would venture a guess that forest firefighters out West breath more wood smoke on an average day than people living in wood-heat regions breathe all year long.

    You can analyze anything to death to try to make a point. Show me some real numbers.
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Warren, this is based on the Puget Sound region, not Ma, Mi, or Mo. . I'm not agreeing with all the data, but here pellets go for about $130-200/ton, even this winter. In Seattle electricity is ~.05/kw and nat. gas = .83/therm. And there is not as much free wood in suburban areas, almost none in the urban region which is large. Buy wood here and it will be ~$200-300/cord unless one lives in the more rural areas.

    A temperature inversion is a meteorological phenomenon in which air temperature increases with height for some distance above the ground, as opposed to the normal decrease in temperature with height. This effect, which can be caused by a number of different factors, can lead to pollution such as smog being trapped close to the ground, with possible adverse effects on health.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_inversion

    Worst temp inversions I've experienced are Mexico City and New Delhi. In both locations the inversion can last for weeks. Lots of wood (and in Delhi's case dung) smoke in the air = lots of respiratory disease. Worst I've experienced locally is about 2 weeks. But during that time smoke accumulates so badly you can easily see it. From the air you can see the brown blanket of smoke stretch over 70 miles.

    As to proof, do a little research. There is lots of data, particularly in rural areas of the world where wood is used by entire communities.
    http://www.webcom.com/~bi/ws-cancer-reuters7-05.htm
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=27585
    http://www.co.yakima.wa.us/cleanair/wood smoke.pdf
    http://www.house.gov/ed_workforce/hearings/109th/wp/feca052605/johnson.htm

    Craig's summary is correct. (though the meat statement is specific to beef I believe and not so much other meats.) We all need to try burning as cleanly as possible. This website has helped a lot of people transition to new, cleaner burning stoves, to learn how to burn better/cleaner and how to use newer technology like catalytic convertors properly. As Martha would say - that's a good thing and like Red Green says, we're all in this together. Clean burning stoves make good neighbors.

    Attached Files:

  15. Jason762

    Jason762 Member

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    Eric,
    I am both a wood stove using individual and a career firefighter in the northeast. Now I cannot speak for smokejumpers/forest firefighters as I work in a city but here is what I know. The cancer rate, especially lung cancer rate in FF's is much higher than the general population, BUT this is due to the heavy use of plastics in todays modern homes. The PCB's, which stands for polychlorinated biphenyls, in these plastics is cited as possibly being the main cause. It also may be responsible for liver and kidney problems as well as birth defects. Years ago (back in the 70's and before) FF's would go into burning buildings without air packs on and would breathe in all the burning wood toxins, now many of these FF's are coming down with lung cancer. But the amount of smoke these guys were taking in is way more than any homeowner would using his woodstove. Back then there weren't many plastics in use, if there were I would say the cancer/death rate would be through the roof. So I guess what I'm saying is if your using your stove properly I would guess that you would have no problem. With all the crap I breath in at work, my wood stove is the least of my worries.
  16. wahsega

    wahsega New Member

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  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good catch wahsega. Ironic timing, eh?

    Evidently lots of people asked about the seeming policy contradiction. I asked the author of the PI story about this and he in turn asked Seattle Steam. Here is their response:
    "When we burn wood, it's not like burning it in a home fire," says Stan Gent, Seattle Steam's chief executive. Between the technology used to burn the wood chips and filters for the flue gas, the plant's emissions should meet or beat all standards of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, he said. In a few cases, such as nitrogen oxide, emissions will actually be reduced from the current levels that result from using natural gas.

    So far no word back from PSCAA, but I believe that they eventually are the ones that will supply the permit.
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