Canadian Biomass Magazine

Researchers find health concerns with wood stoves

February 27, 2017
By McGill Media Relations Office

Feb. 27, 2017 - Researchers from McGill and Health Canada are linking air pollution from wood burning to increased risk of heart attacks in seniors.

The report, Biomass Burning as a Source of Ambient Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Acute Myocardial Infarction, by Scott Weichenthal et al published in Epidemiology, finds the risk of acute myocardial infarction for the elderly living in and around small cities is increased by air pollution caused by biomass burning from woodstoves.

By comparing pollution data from three cities in British Columbia (Prince George, Kamloops and Courtenay/Comox) with hospital admissions, researchers from McGill and Health Canada found that rising concentrations of fine particulate air pollution caused by wood burning were associated with increased hospitalization for myocardial infarction. During the cold season, when pollution from woodstoves is at its highest, the risk of heart attacks among subjects of 65 years and older increased by 19 per cent.

“We noticed that the association was stronger when more of the air pollution came from wood burning,” says McGill University professor Scott Weichenthal, lead author of the study. “This suggests that the source of pollution matters and that all particulate air pollution is perhaps not equally harmful when it comes to cardiovascular disease.”

Improving public health
Weichenthal thinks the findings might push cities across Canada to tackle air pollution caused by fireplaces and woodstoves. Increasing winter smog alerts have prompted cities such as Montreal to bring forward bylaws forcing homeowners to register and, eventually, replace their stoves with cleaner sources of heating. The study, says Weichenthal, gives credence to “initiatives aimed at reducing air pollution from residential wood burning in the interest of public health.”


This work was funded by Health Canada.

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