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'All Wood Smoke is Toxic'



It was noted in a recent article ("California's Wildfire Smoke and the Climate Crisis: Four Things to Know," Sept. 7) that "Wildfire smoke is toxic, containing substances such as carbon monoxide and benzene, a carcinogen."

In fact, all wood smoke is toxic and contains several known carcinogens, including benzene. This includes wood smoke from wood stoves.

Twelve years ago, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality performed air toxics monitoring in Klamath Falls (population around 22,000). The DEQ estimated that wood stoves emitted 8 tons of benzene there during the wood-burning season. Other heat sources emitted almost none. 

Wood smoke is a potent mix of toxic compounds and fine particles that are linked not only to cancer, but also to developmental harm in children, heart attacks, strokes, dementia and more, including premature deaths. 

The most hazardous components of wood smoke are not visible; you don't have to see smoke to be harmed by it.

Just last month, researchers with the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences published a study linking increased lung cancer risk in women to wood stove and fireplace use. They found evidence of increased risk even when the study subjects only occasionally heated with wood.

Neighbors of wood-burning households can routinely be exposed to air pollution levels that are 100 times higher than what others in the community are breathing, or that official regulatory air monitoring reflects. 

There is a widely held belief that because wood is natural, burning it must not be harmful. But this simply isn't true. We need to have much greater awareness of this significant source of harm. 

Links to relevant research studies and other information are available on the website of Doctors and Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution (DSAWSP): dsawsp.org.

Ellen Golla, Trinidad 

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