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Burn a Little Wiser in Sussex County

Release Date: December 19, 2018
The Sussex County Division of Health would like to remind residents to take measures for reducing residential wood smoke.

With the holiday season in full effect, many families in Sussex County will be warming up by their wood fire, but many people do not know that wood burning can have an impact on health status. The Sussex County Division of Health would like to remind residents to take measures for reducing residential wood smoke.

The term used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to describe this wood burning is Residential Wood Combustion. Residential wood combustion can include wood in fireplaces as well as woodstoves and other heating devices. When the wood does not burn completely, smoke is produced. The smoke is what presents the health concern because it can contain an elaborate mix of particles and gases (also called particulate matter). This particulate matter can come in a wide range of sizes but the EPA is most concerned about the smallest particles (<10 micrometers).

It may be difficult to think that these small particles could cause more harm, but it is their size that allows them to enter deep into the lungs, heart, and bloodstream. The severity of this public health concern is seen in the health problems caused by overexposure to particulate matter. The problems include increased respiratory problems and decreased lung function. The population at highest risk is anyone with a heart or lung disease, children, and older adults.

If done properly, wood burning can be a safe and economical heating method. Season your wood outdoors during the dry summer months, store wood outdoors, stacked off the ground, and covered on top. Start your fires with newspaper and dry kindling or another option would be to install a log lighter in your fireplace. Maintain proper airflow by removing ashes from the appliance regularly. Never burn household garbage, painted wood, ocean driftwood, or wet wood in your wood burning appliance.

For those who heat their home with wood, the Division of Health recommends that you visit the Choosing Appliances page on the EPA website at, external link. For additional information regarding the best practices as well as other information regarding wood burning visit the BurnWise website at external link.

Sussex County Burn Wise page
Safe and Proper Use of Woodstoves and Fireplaces in Cold Weather Months external link