Friday, August 15, 2014

[biofuelwatch] Re: [Biomass] EPA: Wood Smoke Carcinogens Equivalent to Smoking 2-16 cigarettes/day

Wood smoke from residential burning is a huge problem where I live in vermont. 

Some days the whole village is in pall.  Even tho new stoves may be cleaner, people dont know how to use them, dont have access to hi quality wood and or cannot afford to purchase the most recent updated efficient models. 

Any ideas about how to heat that does not involve fracked gas, drilled oil, biofuels, coal/large hydro electricity, or ….

and that is not prohibitively expensive??  

Me and my neighbors are wondering because it gets mighty cold here in Northern VT!

I am emotionally attached to not freezing to death.  I already keep the house really cold and wear a down coat indoors much of the time. 

please advise!

On Aug 15, 2014, at 10:30 AM, Alan Muller <> wrote:

It is true that "modern" wood burning equipment is cleaner than old stoves that just throttle the air supply.  These operate like coke ovens and discharge huge amounts of "products of incomplete combustion."  But even late model stoves and boilers, compliant with EPA guidance & etc, have very high emissions compared to alternatives.  The fact that visible smoke is absent does not mean that pollutants are absent.

Yeah, these realities are uncomfortable for people emotionally committed to burning wood, or who don't feel like they have reasonable alternatives.  But what about all the people whose health and quality of life are compromised by other peoples' wood-burning?

Last winter's spike in propane prices may have sent a lot of people wood-burner-shopping.

(Confession:  I once welded up a stove based on plans in Mother Earth News, and heated a farmhouse with it for a couple of years.  Didn't know any better at the time.)


At 12:16 PM 8/15/2014 +0000, Craig Patterson wrote:
Janet and Josh,

Why not drum up a study from the 1600’s … that shows the effects of wood ssmoke on the centers of population???? Or perhaps studies that identify brain cancer with electrical resistance ceiling heat? Are you guys really on a witch hunt…? Sure sseems that way to me..

To hang your hats on a study that is 32 years old and not know some of the key factors that when into the research back then qualifies you as witch hunters….but you don’t know yyour facts…

It is true that manny did turn to wood heating in the 1970’s as electrical prices (largely due to WPPSS) went thru the roof. It is also true that much of the technology back then contributed significantly to the wood smoke problem. Fisher stoves ( along with a number of others) built a stove that could control the amount of combustion oxygen thus ‘extending’ the burn, with significant problems around increasing smoke and incomplete combustion.

There are three critical aspects to burning ‘clean’. Don’t burn green, wet or pitchy wood and don't starve the fire from oxygen. Instead put ‘thermal mass’ around the stove and burn hot, efficient fires with proper wood products. When this is done properly one will only see heat raising from the chimney and VERY LITTLE SMOKE….. I know this first hand as I have heateed (with a 1918 majestic wood cook stove and fireplace with insert) since the 1970’s.

To use a 32 year old study when the technology had gone the wrong direction and extrapolate from there makes about as much sense as saying  we should embrace nuclear energy cause it doesn’t have as significant carbon foot print… If you buy that… you might as well take me me off this list… and I can see we are worlds apart in oour analysis and lifestyles….

WWhile an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…. it doesn’t mean that an ounce of ignorance is worth a pound of intelligence… quite the contrary….
My two cents,

PS…. Lets see a full cost accounting (inclluding all externalizations and unintended consequences) for ALL energy sources…. similar to the Energy return too energy investment (EROEI)…Then we might be able to esccape these worn out ruts we keep circling…

Sent from Windows Mail

From: janet sinclair
Sent: ‎Thursday‎, ‎August‎ ‎14‎, ‎2014 ‎6‎:‎20‎ ‎PM
To: Josh Schlossberg, Energy Justice Network,,,

My feeling has always been that residential wood burning, in total, is probably a worse contributor to air pollution the large facilities, in total. I would rather live near a biomass plant than a wood burner, which I happen to do and it's hell.

Most of the studies about wood smoke health effects are "old" studies. This info has been around for decades. Thank you Josh for pointing this out to us.


On 08/14/14, Josh Schlossberg, Energy Justice Network wrote:

In researching the topic, the EPA provided me with this study below.
Though it's decades old, it's still surprising.

While my focus is still on industrial scale biomass, the more I
research I do on the pollution from all scales of biomass energy the
harder it is for me, in good conscience, to ignore the health impacts
of residential burning.



Residential Wood Combustion Study, 1980-1982

"Average ambient air levels of benzo (a) pyrene, a known carcinogen,
were measured at levels approximately equivalent to that of smoking two
to six cigarettes/day. The highest level of benzo (a) pyrene measured
was approximately equivalent to that of smoking four to sixteen
cigarettes/day." (p. 2)

Josh Schlossberg

Editor & Journalist, Energy
Justice Now
Editor & Journalist, The Biomass
Steering Committee,
Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, Energy Justice Network

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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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