Health Effects of Wood Smoke
Wood smoke contains poisonous and cancer-causing chemicals including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and formaldehyde. They enter the lungs by attaching to tiny particles in wood smoke too small to be filtered by the nose and upper respiratory systems.
Breathing wood smoke can:
- cause cardiovascular problems such as angina
- irritate lungs and eyes
- trigger headaches
- hinder judgment
- slow reflexes
- worsen respiratory diseases such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis
It is especially detrimental to children, pregnant women, and the elderly. The occurrence of respiratory illnesses such as acute pneumonia or bronchitis in children has been shown to increase with increased exposure to wood smoke.
Environmental Effects of Wood Smoke
Fort Collins is not immune to the pollution of big city life. One out of every four days, the City violates the State of Colorado's visibility standard, causing a dark haze or "brown cloud." While wood smoke contributes to the brown cloud, it can be more damaging in the specific neighborhood where wood burning occurs.
City Code for Wood Burning
- Only wood burning units certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be installed in Fort Collins.
- Only clean, dry, untreated wood may be burned in a wood stove or fireplace. "Pellets" burned in pellet stoves and manufactured fire logs such as DuraFlame burned in a fireplace are acceptable. Burning of garbage and treated wood is prohibited.
- After the first 15-minutes of start-up, smoke from the chimney must be at or less than 20% opacity (smoke should be barely visible looking at it with your back to the sun).
- Violation of City Code can result in a summons to appear in municipal court resulting in a fine of up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail.
Wood Burning Recommendations
The City recommends that you avoid using your fireplace or wood stove to protect the health of yourself and your neighbors. If you own a fireplace or wood stove and must burn, consider the following:
- Avoid burning on "red pollution days" announced by Denver media. To find out if it is a red or blue day, visit apcd.state.co.us/advisory.aspx.
- Purchase firewood early in the season. Stack and cover it loosely. Make sure it dries 6-8 months prior to use.
- Burn only 100% non-treated wood.
- Maintain a small, hot fire.
- Keep air controls open to decrease pollution and creosote build-up.
- Have your chimney or flue inspected and cleaned annually.
- Check the smoke coming out of your chimney. Too much smoke means air pollution and wasted fuel. Too much smoke also violates City Code.
- Do not burn overnight and NEVER leave your fire unattended.
Air Quality Loans
Consider converting to a gas stove or fireplace or upgrading your wood burning unit. Air Quality Loans of up to $3,000 are available for that purpose. Call 970-221-6600 to learn more.