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Smoke health effects & burning alternatives

Using wood stoves and similar devices contributes to poor air quality. Before you burn anything consider other methods of home heating and disposal. 

Smoke is harmful to your health

Smoke and soot from burning wood contains a mixture of harmful gases and fine particles. Most particles are so small that when inhaled they get past your body’s defenses and lodge deep into your lungs causing serious health problems, including:

  • Asthma attacks.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Respiratory infections.
  • Chronic obstructive lung disease and lung cancer.
  • Irregular heart beat.
  • Heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.
  • Stroke.

Infants and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with lung or heart disease are the most sensitive to harm from wood smoke, but everyone can experience eye, throat, sinus, and lung irritation.

Particulate matter 10 shown being much smaller than a human hair and even one particle of fine beach sand.

Image of a fine particle next to a human hair.

Wood smoke and burning alternatives

During the winter months in Washington, almost all wood smoke comes from the use of wood burning stoves and similar devices. This smoke often becomes the leading source of fine particle air pollution when weather conditions trap smoke close to the ground. People in homes that burn wood for heat have more respiratory problems than those who don’t. Read about how wood smoke harms your health.

Other types of burning can also result in unhealthy accumulations of smoke, such as burning yard waste, agricultural burning, and wildfires. Temperature inversions can trap smoke near the ground resulting in poor air quality.

When smoke levels threaten public health, Ecology or local clean air agencies issue Air Quality Burn Bans.

Alternatives to burning yard waste What else you can do

Contact one of our regional offices or your local clean air agency if you have questions about what permit application you need or to find out if burning is allowed in your area.




Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Klickitat, and Okanogan Counties 509-575-2490 agburnteamcro@ecy.wa.gov
Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 509-329-3400 agburnteamero@ecy.wa.gov
San Juan County 425-649-7267 david.adler@ecy.wa.gov