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David Morgan
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What You Burn Matters: Minimize the Risk

January 23, 2014 - Air Quality - Safety

Health Department warns of dangers of burning damp wood and trash to stay warm

During the winter, many New Mexicans use their wood-burning stoves to stay warm.

During the wintertime, residential wood smoke is the main source of fine particle pollution causing poor air quality inside the home. Burning the right wood, the right way, in the right wood-burning appliance can reduce harmful air pollution.

When you use your wood stove, the New Mexico Department of Health recommends that you burn dry, seasoned wood to reduce particle pollution. Wet wood is a problem for your health and your pocketbook. It creates a lot of smoke and burns inefficiently, meaning the heat literally goes up in smoke. Buy an inexpensive moisture meter at a hardware store to test the wetness of your wood before burning. Wood should only be used if the moisture content is 20 percent or less.

Particle pollution in wood smoke can affect everyone, but people with lung disease, including asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or people with heart disease are the most vulnerable. Particle pollution can trigger asthma attacks, increase symptoms of COPD and cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. For people with heart disease, particle pollution is linked to heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and stroke. Visit the Environmental Public Health Tracking website to learn more about Environmental Public Health Tracking - Heart Attacks and Environmental Public Health Tracking - Asthma Data or by visiting the Environmental Health Epidemiology section of our website.

The New Mexico Department of Health recommends:

  • Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood to reduce particle pollution.
  • Never burn household garbage, cardboard, plastics, foam, colored ink on paper/boxes/wrappers, coated/painted/pressure-treated wood, plywood, particle board, any wood with glue on it, or driftwood as they all release toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Keep the doors of your wood-burning appliance closed unless loading or stoking the live fire. Harmful chemicals, like carbon monoxide, can be released into your home.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Know about safe wood-burning practices if you have underlying heart or lung disease.

Get more “burn wisely” tips from the Environmental Public Health Tracking - Fire and Smoke section of the New Mexico Environmental Public Health Tracking website.

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.