In a recent study conducted by the Alaska Tribal Air Quality Health Consortium of fifteen homes in rural Alaska over 1/2 of the children between the ages of 3 and 12 had some type of respiratory condition. Likely causes included: diesel stoves in need of repair or maintenance, outdated wood-burning stoves in disrepair, pollution from engine parts and cleaning solvents that were stored inside the home, and poor to non-existent ventilation would allow for harmful particulates to escape the confines of the residences.
Of those fifteen homes, all had high levels of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds from the solvents and petroleum products wafting from engine parts. However, after remediation efforts, those levels noticeably decreased; the carbon dioxide and particulates dropped by half while the organic compounds were reduced by 65 percent.
What measures can you take to improve the conditions in your home?
First of all – try not to work on your sno-go, boat motor or 4-wheeler in the house; the fumes coming off them are very harmful. If you must work in a confined area like the house or shed, crack a window or door to let the fumes out.
Make sure your wood stove is properly installed and that the chimney is cleaned regularly and secured snuggly (we don’t want any house fires). A properly functioning stove should be more-or-less smoke free; in other words you should see very little smoke coming from the stack. There should be no smoke billowing back into the house when opening the stove door.
Do your best to burn dry wood – try and collect it several months in advance and store it off the ground and covered.
Burn your fires hot – not smoldering.
Regularly remove ashes from the stove floor.
Things recommended not to burn in wood stoves: household garbage, cardboard, plastics, styrofoam, magazines with colored ink, fancy wrappers that can produce harmful chemicals, painted wood, particle board or any wood with glue on it.
Never burn wet, rotted, diseased, or moldy wood.
Be good to your neighbors – your smoke can affect them as much as it does you!
Below are informational links that discuss the health hazards of particulate matter and other pollutants and ways to minimize those hazards.