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Know the West

Health impacts of wood smoke

A look at which stoves and furnaces emit the most particles damaging to your health, plus which states burn the most wood.


For a moment there, it seemed as if winter in the West might be over. But February’s storms have left much of the region under a layer of new snow. For more than 2.4 million Westerners, that means it’s time to trudge out to the woodpile and crank up stoves, boilers and fireplaces. Wood heat can be more economical and less carbon-intensive to produce than other fuel sources, according to data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But wood smoke can have serious health impacts; its fine particles can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory problems. It can also contribute to low-hanging smog, prompting temporary local bans. In Utah, lawmakers have proposed a more far-reaching bill that would restrict winter wood burning in an attempt to curtail the state’s “brown cloud”— angering residents who insist on the “right to burn.” But if you’re committed to wood-burning, the Environmental Protection Agency advocates using stoves designed to release fewer particles and burn more efficiently. Check out your best wood-burning options below.

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