On a cold winter’s day, there’s nothing better than a fire crackling in a fireplace, with a steaming cup of coffee, or hot cocoa in your hands. Nevertheless, this romantic image comes with its own risks. Open fireplaces can be dangerous for your health, especially if you have a history of lung disease.
Why Open Fireplaces Can Be Dangerous
The dangers of open fireplaces result from the smoke that you inhale as a fire is burning and in the immediate aftermath. The smoke carries small particles which can enter your respiratory system as well as your eyes, leading to a variety of problems, such as coughing, a runny nose, burning eyes, and diseases such as bronchitis.
Those small particles that have a diameter of less than 10 micrometers, are the most dangerous for the health of your lungs. This is because their small diameter allows them to go deep into your respiratory system and even enter the bloodstream.Fine particles, which have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, are the most dangerous for your respiratory system. Wood smoke often carries toxic substances such as acrolein, beneze, formaldehyde and methane.
How Smoke Affects Your Lungs
When you build a fire, it’s important to limit how exposed you are to the smoke. Wood smoke can lead to asthma as well as bronchitis and can make lung and heart disease that much worse.
Those who suffer from lung and/or heart disease, or diabetes, and children and older adults are most at risk from the effects of smoke. Wood smoke has been known to not only cause lung cancer and wheezing, but also cause premature death.
If you or someone in your home has a history of heart or lung disease, or diabetes, or they are a child or older adult, you should avoid using an open fireplace. Importantly, even if you have a chimney, 70% of the smoke that leaves your home through a chimney re-enters the home.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t race to get yourself dried firewood for sale. There are ways to make your fireplace safer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should undertake the following in order to make your fireplace safer:
- Burn all dry wood that has been split, and covered and stored for at least six months.
- Get a certified professional to inspect your fireplace and chimney and clean it annually. This check is to ensure that your fireplace and chimney do not have any cracks, gaps, or drafts, and to prevent creosote building up to dangerous levels.
- Place a tight-fitting door on the fireplace, rather than a fireplace screen.
- Keep the room in which the fireplace is located, well-ventilated.
- DO not burn any garbage, plastic or pressure-treated wood.
- Start fires with newspapers and bits of dry wood.
According to the American Lung Association, you should also consider natural gas stoves and heaters to heat your water or home. If you do decide to use gas, then you should make sure that they are fully dented so that any pollutants are kept out.