Everyone loves the smell of a fire during the holiday season. But wood burning fireplaces introduce unique hazards, including the possible emission of toxic chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifies some of these toxic chemicals as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dioxin and inhalable particulate matter. These air pollutants can cause a wide range of health problems such as burning eyes, coughing, headaches and bronchitis.
To minimize the emission of toxic chemicals with a wood-burning fire:
• Only burn dry seasoned hardwoods like oak, hickory and ash
• Avoid burning soft woods like pine and cedar
• Avoid burning wet wood and wood treated in any way (like painted wood, plywood, etc.)
• Never burn plastics, cardboard, garbage, gift wrapping, magazines, etc.
If you want the beauty of a fire without the big environmental impact, light soy or beeswax candles. Get several large pillar candles or varying heights and place them on a flat surface in your fireplace. They are cleaner and gentler on the environment, but are every bit as beautiful and fragrant. Plus they last longer!