Cozy wood heat may harm health

Feb. 7, 2011 at 9:07 PM
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Danish, Dutch and French researchers say invisible particles released into the air as wood burns in fireplaces and woodstoves may harm health.

Researchers led by Steffen Loft of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark found particulate matter in the air from the center of a village in Denmark where most residents used woodstoves as well as pure woodstove particulate matter collected from a woodstove tended to be of the most potentially hazardous size -- small enough to be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs.

The report, published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, found the woodstove particulates from both sources contained higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons -- including "probable" human carcinogens.

When tested on cultures of human cells, the particulates caused inflammation, greater activity in genes linked to disease as well as damage to genetic material.

"Our results suggest that wood stove particulates matter are more toxic than rural background ambient air particulates per unit mass as measured by oxidative stress-associated damage, whereas ambient air particulates containing wood smoke-generated particulate matter generate effects that were in between those of pure woodstove particulates matter and rural background particulates," the study says.

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