Are Wood Stoves Bad for Babies?
Whether a wood stove is bad for a baby depends a lot upon the wood stove and installation. According to the Environmental Health News website, wood smoke is made up of fine particles that can lodge in lungs or airways, and it can be as damaging as cigarette smoke over time 1. Modern equipment that is properly installed can significantly reduce the risks of damage from smoke inhalation for families who need to heat with wood.
An article from PubMed, entitled "Oxidative Stress, DNA Damage, and Inflammation Induced by Ambient Air and Wood Smoke Particulate Matter in Human A549 and THP-1 Cell Lines" indicates that wood smoke has the potential to create carcinogens 2. Wood smoke has a tiny particle size and a small amount of metal content. The particles can lodge in lungs, causing them to function poorly. Families who heat with wood can have a high incidence of respiratory problems in winter, especially when using older woodburning devices that are improperly vented. In areas where many people heat with wood, air quality is adversely affected.
Danger from Burns
Steel-jacketed woodburning stoves that are situated inside the house often have metal surfaces that become extremely hot. Stoves that have an enamel jacket with an air circulation area between the fire box and the jacket are safer for use because the enamel jacket doesn't get as hot as the metal fire box. If a jacketed stove is not available, the stove should be surrounded by a sturdy barrier to prevent accidental burns caused by touching the hot stove.
Properly sealed and vented stoves can reduce the risk of indoor air pollution. If you must burn wood as a primary heating source, an Environmental Protection Agency-approved wood stove or pellet stove that is properly installed and vented poses little risk to the people sitting near it. However, it can still cause outdoor air pollution. Since you will have to occasionally take your child outside, external air quality can also be a concern. Because of this, many areas have banned heating with wood.
Babies need warmth in winter. If heating with wood is your only option for heating your home, there are some things you can do to lessen smoke problems inside and outside your home. Select an EPA-approved wood burner. Use correctly installed chimneys and keep them clean. Use a wood burner that is installed outside that heats your home with steam or warm air convection currents. Check your wood using a moisture meter to insure that it is properly seasoned and dry before burning it in your woodburning stove or heater.
- Environmental Health News: Smoke From Wood Fireplaces, Stoves Raises New Health Concerns
- NCBI: Oxidative Stress, DNA Damage, and Inflammation Induced by Ambient Air and Wood Smoke Particulate Matter in Human A549 and THP-1 Cell Lines
- EPA: Burnwise
- EPA: Strategies for Reducing Residential Wood Smoke
- EPA: Strategies for Reducing Residential Wood Smoke, PDF document
- EPA: Consumers - Energy Efficiency and Wood-Burning Stoves and Fireplaces
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images