Wood-burning appliances and indoor air quality
Wood heating represents an interesting economic alternative to electrical or heating oil and gas systems. However, many people are concerned about poor indoor air quality in homes equipped with wood-burning appliances. We conducted a study in the Quebec City region (Canada) to verify the extent of indoor air contamination, and to examine the frequency of respiratory symptoms and illnesses among occupants of wood-heated homes. One child attending primary school (median=8 years old; range=5–14 years old) and an adult (median=37 years old; range=23–52 years old) were recruited in each eligible house. Eligible houses were without known sources of combustion products (smokers, attached garage, oil or gas furnace, gas stove, etc.) except for wood-burning appliance. Out of the 89 houses included in the study, 59 had wood-burning appliances. Formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, respirable particles (PM10) and carbon monoxide were measured in a sub-set of 49 houses (41 with a wood-burning appliance and 8 without). The frequency of respiratory symptoms and diseases among participants were documented using a daily symptom diary. Concentrations of contaminants were low in most houses, both with or without a wood-burning appliance. Globally, there was no consistent relationship between the presence of a wood-burning appliance and respiratory morbidity in residents. Nevertheless, residents who mentioned being exposed to fumes emitted by such an appliance reported more respiratory illnesses and symptoms. The presence of animals or molds, and keeping windows closed most of the time in winter were other factors associated with respiratory problems. We conclude that wood burning appears to be a respiratory health risk for occupants if the appliance is not maintained and used properly.