Wood Smoke is Unhealthy—Even for Healthy People
Despite the many reports documenting its toxic effects, many people still express skepticism that exposure to wood smoke is harmful to healthy adults. They seem to think that it only affects people who already have lung or heart problems.
An interesting new study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine reveals that smoke from burning wood affects even healthy adults. The 10 study subjects did not report overt symptoms, such as wheezing, after exposure to the smoke, but lung and blood tests showed increased numbers of immune cells, which are indicators of inflammation. The authors conclude that wood smoke exposure leads to both pulmonary (lung) and systemic (whole body) inflammation.
In general, inflammation is a response to physiological damage and serves as an indicator that the body is responding to damage. In this case, damage is most likely induced by wood smoke particles and the associated toxins. Notably, inflammation is associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung condition that is characterized by shortness of breath. In addition, systemic inflammation is linked to both heart disease and stroke.
In short, this study clearly shows that wood smoke is not only harmful to populations we know are vulnerable, like infants, the elderly, and people with lung and heart disease. The bottom line is that wood smoke is harmful to everyone.