Experts warn against wood burning during holidays

Posted at 6:37 PM, Dec 23, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- The tree is trimmed, the dinner menu is set, and there's firewood stacked near the fireplace.

But this year air quality experts suggest maybe you do without the fire this Christmas season, because of the impacts it can have on children.

During inversion season hospitals see an increased number of emergency room visits.

The experts say that's a good reason not to roast chestnuts over an open flame this holiday.

"There's a good feeling that it gives to have a fireplace lit in your home -- we like the smell, and we've been burning wood since we've been around on this planet,” said Dr. Michelle Hofmann, Associate Professor of Pediatrics for the University of Utah. “It's only in more recent times that we are understanding that it is actually harmful to our health. It's not natural.”

Even if your fireplace ventilates well and it seems like all those particles are getting outside, the experts say 70 percent of the particulates go back into your house and your neighbors’ houses, and it affects the overall air quality.

Bryce Bird, director of Division of Environmental Quality, said wood burning isn't the only culprit behind inversion, but wood burning is inefficient and at times unnecessary.

“Burning a wood log for an hour is the same as driving 90 SUVs for that hour,” Bird said.

One alternative to keep a fire burning this holiday, without the health impacts is to watch the yule log on television.  It will be burning here on FOX 13 Christmas morning.