Environmental Health:

Wood Smoke

Did You Know?

Burning wood for heat is a major source of air pollution. In fact, residential burning in the wintertime causes more PM2.5 pollution than industrial sources.

Whether from a wildfire, campfire, or wood stove, wood smoke is harmful.

Breathing in wood smoke can cause increased respiratory symptoms, increased hospital admissions, exacerbation of asthma and COPD and decrease your ability to breathe normally. No one is safe from the harmful effects of wood smoke.

For someone without lung problems, wood smoke can:

  • Irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses
  • Increase the risk of heart attacks
  • Trigger headaches and allergies
  • Reduce lung function, especially in children

For someone with lung disease, wood smoke can cause all of the above sooner and it can:

  • trigger asthma attacks
  • worsen COPD
  • worsen pneumonia

Symptoms of worsening lung problems include increased cough, chest discomfort, wheeze and shortness of breath.

Wood smoke contains many pollutants, including:


Particulate Matter that is less than 2.5 microns in diameter. These microscopic particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs and become trapped in the tissue leading to the development of serious respiratory problems.

Carbon Monoxide:

Carbon monoxide reduces the bloods ability to supply oxygen to the body’s tissues which can cause stress to the heart.

Nitrogen Oxides:

Nitrogen Oxides can lower your resistance to lung infections. They can also cause irritation to the upper airways leading to shortness of breath especially in people with lung diseases such as asthma and emphysema.

Sulphur Dioxide:

Sulphur Dioxide causes the inflammation in the airways, leading to a decreased ability to breathe.


Formaldehyde can trigger asthma exacerbations and cause coughing, headaches and eye irritation.

NB Lung recommends that you do not burn wood.

If wood is your only source of heat, ensure your stove is working property, well maintained, and learn how to make an efficient fire to minimize the smoke as much as possible

Page Last Updated: 28/02/2023