Using Wood Burning Stoves: No scientific evidence for adverse health effects

Wood Burning Stoves Health Effects: Facts Not Fiction

Fact: Higher levels of PM created inside the home from cooking than from modern wood burning stoves.

Fact: Studies into the contribution from wood burning stoves to indoor particulate matter (PM) in the developed world, has found no scientific evidence for adverse health effects.

Fact: Candles, incense, and hairspray all gave higher PM10 and PM2.5 readings than the use of a modern Eco-design stove. Most staggering however was the indoor air quality impact of cooking a fried breakfast, which gave PM readings over 20 times higher than the WHO recommended limit..

Among the key findings of the Literature review: report on indoor air quality associated with wood-burning by Dr Amanda Lea-Langton, senior lecturer in Bioenergy Engineering at the University of Manchester, were:

  • No scientific evidence found for adverse health impacts from exposure to the indoor air typically associated with modern, enclosed wood burning stoves
  • No association shown between exposure to indoor wood burning and risk of asthma in developed countries
  • Use of modern wood burning stoves may help to improve air quality inside the home due to the natural draught created during wood stove operation that pulls air from the room into the appliance and from outside
  • Other sources of particulate matter in the home, such as cooking, can release much higher levels of PM compared to modern, enclosed wood burning stoves, and could therefore have greater health risk potential
  • In one study, oil-based cooking, such as frying food or grilling meat, had peak value PM concentrations significantly higher than the WHO recommended average 24hr exposure limit
  • In the same study the Eco-design wood burning stove indoor air quality averages during operation were below the WHO recommended limits.

The review, which has been commissioned by the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA),
looked at evidence from over 35 different studies into the impact on indoor air quality in the developed world from solid fuel combustion, including the 2020 study by Chakraborty et al, Indoor Air Pollution from Residential Stoves: Examining the Flooding of Particulate Matter into Homes during Real-World Use.

Commenting on the review, James Verlaque, technical manager of the SIA, noted:

“It is vital that we fully understand the impact that the quality of the air inside our homes can have on our health.
There has been a common misconception that the use of wood burning stoves is detrimental to our health by their contribution to indoor air quality. The findings of this review do not support this assertion and highlight some important areas for further research.
One broad literature review by a public body indicated that there was no association shown between exposure to indoor woodburning and the risk of asthma in developed countries.”

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