What's In Your House That Pollutes As Much As Seven Diesel Buses?

As the price of natural gas and heating oil skyrockets, Americans are expected to turn to a cheaper, and often readily available alternative - wood, with severe public health consequences. Fortunately, strategies are in place to mitigate woodburning.
November 15, 2005, 2pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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"The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that wood stoves are responsible for 5% of the smallest, deadliest particles emitted in the USA. That's not much, but many big industrial sources of particles are already working to clean up their emissions. As other sources cut back, "residential wood smoke becomes a very important source of (particle) pollution," says Bill Wehrum, the EPA's top air pollution official."

"...environmental officials don't worry much about new (wood) stoves, which boast either catalytic converters or combustion chambers designed to minimize soot. But a wood stove sold before stiffer regulations took effect in 1992 can emit as much pollution as seven diesel buses, says Guillermo Cole of the Allegheny County, Pa., Health Department.

Such older models account for three-quarters of the nation's wood stoves."

A strategy to lessen wood smoke emissions in southwestern Pennsylvania is to offer discounts for replacing fireplaces or wood stoves with new, cleaner models, funded by EPA and industry.

"The high cost of heating oil drove Traci and Duane Eger of North Fayette, Pa., to use the discount to replace their fireplace with a new wood stove.

"It's an incredible amount of heat," says Duane, yet "there's no color to the smoke that comes out, because virtually everything ends up being burned."

The only hitch, he says: "We'll have to explain how Santa can make it through this device."

Thanks to Emily Hopkins

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Published on Monday, November 14, 2005 in USA Today
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