Wood Burning Stoves in the House & Dangerous Breathing

Updated June 05, 2017

For centuries, people have heated their homes with wood-burning stoves. However, while they can provide a cosy, relaxing atmosphere, they can also contribute to serious respiratory problems among family members and guests.

Types of Respiratory Hazards

A wood-burning stove can be the single cause of respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. The symptoms of these hazards can be moderate to severe, and affect children more frequently as they spend more time at home, and their airways are narrower than those of adults.

Other Hazards

Burning wood in an improperly ventilated or non-ventilated stove can contribute to more serious illnesses such as pulmonary emphysema, asthma and possibly even mouth cancer.

Specific Causes

Some of the specific causes of the respiratory problems include the release of hydrocarbons and other substances given off by the burning wood as well as inhalation of the resulting ash. As these pollutants build up within the home, they become more irritating to the occupants' air passages. Tightly closed windows prevent circulation of fresh air, allowing pollutants to build with no means of escape.

Additional Dangers

Outdoor-treated wood and marine plywood should never be used as firewood because they contain preservatives that can be released during the burning process. These preservatives, which include arsenic, copper and chromium, are hazardous to humans.


There are ways in which you can cut down on the pollutants while using your wood-burning stove. If you burn wood quickly and hotly, you can cut down on the emission of pollutants. Using catalytic converters, adequate air supply and internal baffles will help burn the unused fuels that have vaporised.

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About the Author

Chuck Hinson has been a published writer for 33 years, beginning as a syndicated columnist with Southeast Charlotte News. In 1994, he joined Tri-State Christian News as editor and weekly columnist while providing entertainment columns for the monthly newspaper The Window Today. Hinson received his education from Central Piedmont Community College and the University of North Carolina (Charlotte).