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The smoke from BBQs and the trendy outdoor fire pits can cause lung diseases, heart diseases and even cancer, reveals latest study.
The Yale University study said that the wood smoke contains particles that bear a strong negative effect on human health, leading to cardiovascular ailments, lung diseases and cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has revealed that wood smoke contain minimum of five cancer-causing chemicals. There has been an increase in summer wood burning in recent years, as outdoor fire pits and BBQs are increasingly being advertised for use on decks and patios, and this allows the smoke to enter homes of the people.
The study experts confirm that the health risks linked to wood smoke exposure are very serious. Even after the outdoor burning is over, very fine particles and gases from wood smoke can still enter the buildings, scientists claim. Researches further indicate that air pollution levels may worsen symptoms in people with heart or circulatory disease.
For people suffering from asthma, smoke in the air could lead to symptoms like coughing, chest congestion, and wheezing. Therefore, the best way to remain safe is to take preventive inhaler by carrying it with them always. However, in case asthma patients feel that their symptoms get worse when around barbecues or fire pits, they should stay away from smoke.
Why Is Wood Smoke Toxic, And How Does It Affect Us?
Wood smoke is the smoke emitted when wood burns. This wood burning smoke and smoke from outdoor fire pits comprise a complex mixture of gases and fine particles, apart from several other toxic air pollutants as explained below. However, if you burn the wood in an efficient manner using an EPA-certified wood stove, the smoke emitted can be controlled to a large extent.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) - This reduces the ability of blood to supply sufficient oxygen to the tissues of the body, which can cause increased stress to the heart. When inhaled at higher levels, it may cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, and rarely even death.
PM10 (Particulate Matter less than 10 microns in diameter) - It comprises several microscopic particles of various composition and sizes, that is otherwise toxic when inhaled, leading to serious respiratory troubles, particularly in those with cardiopulmonary ailments.
Nitrogen Oxides (NO) - These can lower your resistance to lung infections, with nitrogen dioxide in particular causing shortness of breath, irritation in airways, particularly in patients with asthma and emphysema.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - The VOCs emitted by wood burning appliances can cause respiratory irritation, loss of coordination, and even cancer.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) - these are a group of chemicals that form due to the uncontrolled burning of carbon-containing materials, the prolonged exposure to which, can lead to risk of cancer.
Formaldehyde - Inhaling this can cause headaches, cough, eye irritation, and can be a trigger for people with asthma.
Dioxins and Furans - Even at low exposure, these are highly toxic and cause health risks, including developmental disorders and cancer.
Acrolein - This can cause eye irritations and respiratory ailments.
Who Are Most Affected By Wood Smoke Burning?
Although wood smoke can affect one and all, children, teenagers, and elderly with lung and heart diseases are most vulnerable. Further, obesity and diabetes can also increase risk. Expectant mothers should take precautions to keep away from smoke, to protect the health of their babies.
Furthermore, people suffering from obstructive pulmonary disease, angina, heart failure, and asthma are advised to lower their smoke exposure levels. Children are most vulnerable to smoke, as their respiratory systems are yet to develop completely.
The wood smoke particles can reduce visibility, leading to increased chances of accidents on roads, and also damaging the environment and other public parks in our community.
How To Reduce Wood Smoke Exposure?
Experts recommend that people should reduce their exposure to wood smoke through any of the following ways:
• Use burning appliances that are compatible to natural gas, rather than wood burners.
• If at all you need, buy only an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved wood-burning appliance for home use, and get your appliance certified by a technician annually.
• Avoid burning wood as far as possible. If it is a must, use only clean, dry wood.
• Make sure that you do not use any rubbish for burning, as it may include plastics that can give off toxic compounds.
• Educate your neighbours about the harmful effects of wood burning, if they are often doing so.
• Use an HEPA filter, as studies have shown that they help in reducing air pollution considerably.
• Pregnant women, children, elderly, and people with conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes should avoid exposure to wood burning.