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Why Lighting a Fire in Your Home Is Cozy, but Not That Healthy

Nothing sounds cozier than curling up next to a roaring fire in the wintertime. Yet while it adds to a homey aesthetic, according to a new study, burning wood in stoves and fireplaces may actually be considered a dangerous health risk.

We’re all familiar with air pollution and how chemicals in the air can negatively affect our bodies, but recent studies have shown that the specific chemicals and pollution emitted from the smoke of biomass burning have caused an increase in the likelihood for seniors to suffer acute myocardial infarctions. In other words, more seniors in smaller urban areas are more prone to experience heart attacks when faced with wood-burning exhaust.

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While most people would generally lump all sorts of pollution together, it turns out that the source of pollution is just as important as the contaminants themselves. Data pulled from cities in British Columbia in accordance with their hospital admissions have shown that the potency of particulates in air pollution caused specifically by wood burning are “associated with increased hospitalization for myocardial infarction,” according to researchers from McGill University.

Oftentimes, people don’t think about the amount of air pollution that accumulates in a given area, especially when living in a big city. For example, everyone knows that the air pollution in New York City or Los Angeles is immense and that pollution is a huge cause for heart and lung problems in city-dwellers.

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This pollution is largely generated by vehicle emissions, but that pollution also includes exhausts from boilers and industrial plants. However, when you scale down the size to smaller urban centers that would have more of a use for wood burning during the wintertime — like in some cities in British Columbia — researchers from McGill and Health Canada have found that “the risk of heart attacks among subjects of 65 years and older increased by 19%.”

So while city air pollution is still something that needs our attention, we can’t overlook the other sources of pollution that we may not even think about. We may see fireplaces in our lifestyle magazines, but we should think twice before implementing a seemingly more natural way to generate our heat and energy. In the long run, that more organic form could cost us our good health.

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