Health leaders warn people about risk of wood burning in Utah

Posted at 5:54 PM, Nov 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-20 19:54:49-05

SALT LAKE CITY --  People are using wood burning stoves to stay warm this winter. While it may be a necessity for some, health leaders want you to be aware of the health and environmental risks wood smoke creates.

A toasty fire is inviting on a cold winter day, but health leaders are warning people that wood smoke is bad for your health.

“These are typically small particles, soot and dust, that get emitted into the air, and when you breathe them in it gets lodged in your lungs,” said Donna Kemp Spangler with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Doctors say particles from wood smoke can trigger asthma attacks and heart problems. They also contain cancer causing chemicals. Wood smoke adds to the pollution we see during the winter when we have inversions.

“Every time that you burn wood, it's going to have an impact on the air quality, and if people are outside they actually experience poor health aspects of it,” Spangler said.

The Department of Environmental Quality encourages people to do their part and know when it’s OK to burn solid fuels, such as wood, coal or pellets. People can find that info online, here.

It’s important to note that in Salt Lake County, restrictions have been in place since November 1. That means you are no longer allowed to burn solid fuels on voluntary action days.

“There are exceptions for those who use wood burning stoves, fireplace as their sole source of heat. They are exempt from these type of restrictions if they register with us,” Spangler said.

You could be fined $299 per day for breaking the rule. Although, Salt Lake County leaders say right now, they’re just trying to get the word out rather than stick you with a fine.