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Smoke Pollution and Health

Wood smoke and cigarette smoke are very similar and exposure to either one leads to similar health effects. No one defends cigarette smoke anymore but there are still many who ignore or argue about the effects of wood smoke.

Wood smoke contains over 100 different chemicals and compounds including dioxin, lead, cadmium, arsenic, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, acrolein, benzene(s), pyrene(s), toluene, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, methyl chloride, naphthalene(s), phenols(s), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), chromium, manganese and nickel.

Many of these compounds are known to cause cancer but the nature of smoke is even more threatening due to the extremely tiny size of its particles. The period at the end of this sentence is approximately 500 microns in diameter. Most smoke particles are only 1 micron. They are too small to be filtered by the nose and upper respiratory system so they, and their poisonous adherents, can wind up deep in our lungs. They can remain there for months causing structural damage and chemical changes.

The results are often seen as aggravated asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Smoke also irritates the eyes and triggers headaches and allergies. Long-term exposure may lead to emphysema, chronic bronchitis, arteriosclerosis, and nasal, throat, lung, blood, and lymph system cancers (based on animal studies). Wood smoke adversely affects both respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Wood smoke interferes with normal lung development in infants and young children. Respiratory illness in children increases with increased exposure to wood smoke. The most common of these is asthma which accounts for 25% of all school absenteeism and afflicts approximately 15% of children in Canada. Bronchiolitis, the #1 reason for infant hospitalization, also increases with woodsmoke.

Ear infections are the #1 reason for children under 2 years old to see a physician and the #1 reason for children under 5 years old to receive antibiotics. Ten percent of ear infections are directly linked to woodsmoke.

Dr Michael Brauer Woodsmoke and Health Webinar