Wood-burning fires: cozy, unhealthy


Health news to keep in mind as a particularly cold winter wends on: Crackling logs in a fireplace might warm the heart and the toes. A toasty fire might even be good for the soul. But a new study in Chemical Research in Toxicology, a journal of the American Chemical Society, reminds readers that wood smoke is not particularly good for human bodies. Danish researchers showed that tiny particles from wood smoke damaged the DNA in human cells in culture.

Another study, published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that smoke from burning heating coal has negative health effects as well.

Three-year-olds in the Czech Republic living in homes that used coal as fuel for cooking and/or heating were 1.3 centimeters shorter, on average, than peers in homes that used other fuels, the study found. Wood burning was not associated with shorter stature.


About half of the world’s households use solid fuels such as wood and coal for indoor heating and cooking, the paper reported -- noting that the products of coal consumption are similar to those in cigarette smoke.

An accompanying editorial said that a number of studies had associated indoor solid fuel combustion with health problems including repiratory infections and low birth weight in children, and lung and eye problems in adults. It urged health officials to increase efforts to promote the use of cleaner fuels.

In the meantime: Most scarves, mittens and hats are perfectly safe.