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      Woodsmoke Health Effects: A Review

      , , , , , ,
      Inhalation Toxicology
      Informa UK Limited

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          Abstract

          The sentiment that woodsmoke, being a natural substance, must be benign to humans is still sometimes heard. It is now well established, however, that wood-burning stoves and fireplaces as well as wildland and agricultural fires emit significant quantities of known health-damaging pollutants, including several carcinogenic compounds. Two of the principal gaseous pollutants in woodsmoke, CO and NOx, add to the atmospheric levels of these regulated gases emitted by other combustion sources. Health impacts of exposures to these gases and some of the other woodsmoke constituents (e.g., benzene) are well characterized in thousands of publications. As these gases are indistinguishable no matter where they come from, there is no urgent need to examine their particular health implications in woodsmoke. With this as the backdrop, this review approaches the issue of why woodsmoke may be a special case requiring separate health evaluation through two questions. The first question we address is whether woodsmoke should be regulated and/or managed separately, even though some of its separate constituents are already regulated in many jurisdictions. The second question we address is whether woodsmoke particles pose different levels of risk than other ambient particles of similar size. To address these two key questions, we examine several topics: the chemical and physical nature of woodsmoke; the exposures and epidemiology of smoke from wildland fires and agricultural burning, and related controlled human laboratory exposures to biomass smoke; the epidemiology of outdoor and indoor woodsmoke exposures from residential woodburning in developed countries; and the toxicology of woodsmoke, based on animal exposures and laboratory tests. In addition, a short summary of the exposures and health effects of biomass smoke in developing countries is provided as an additional line of evidence. In the concluding section, we return to the two key issues above to summarize (1) what is currently known about the health effects of inhaled woodsmoke at exposure levels experienced in developed countries, and (2) whether there exists sufficient reason to believe that woodsmoke particles are sufficiently different to warrant separate treatment from other regulated particles. In addition, we provide recommendations for additional woodsmoke research.

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          Most cited references138

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          Biomass-burning emissions and associated haze layers over Amazonia

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            Levoglucosan, a tracer for cellulose in biomass burning and atmospheric particles

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              Measurement of emissions from air pollution sources. 3. C1-C29 organic compounds from fireplace combustion of wood.

              Organic compound emission rates for volatile organic compounds (VOC), gas-phase semivolatile organic compounds, and particle-phase organic compounds are measured from residential fireplace combustion of wood. Firewood from a conifer tree (pine) and from two deciduous trees (oak and eucalyptus) is burned to determine organic compound emissions profiles for each wood type including the distribution of the alkanes, alkenes, aromatics, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), phenol and substituted phenols, guaiacol and substituted guaiacol, syringol and substituted syringols, carbonyls, alkanoic acids, resin acids, and levoglucosan. Levoglucosan is the major constituent in the fine particulate emissions from all three wood types, contributing 18-30% of the fine particulate organic compound emissions. Guaiacol (2-methoxyphenol), and guaiacols with additional substituents at position 4 on the molecule, and resin acids are emitted in significant quantities from pine wood combustion. Syringol (2,6-dimethoxyphenol) and syringols with additional substituents at position 4 on the molecule are emitted in large amounts from oak and eucalyptus firewood combustion, but these compounds are not detected in the emissions from pine wood combustion. Syringol and most of the substituted syringols are found to be semivolatile compounds that are present in both the gas and particle phases, but two substituted syringols that have not been previously quantified in wood smoke emissions, propionylsyringol and butyrylsyringol, are found exclusively in the particle phase and can be used to help trace hardwood smoke particles in the atmosphere. Benzene, ethene, and acetylene are often used as tracers for motor vehicle exhaust in the urban atmosphere. The contribution of wood smoke to the ambient concentrations of benzene, ethene, and acetylene could lead to an overestimate of the contribution of motor vehicle tailpipe exhaust to atmospheric VOC concentrations.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Inhalation Toxicology
                Inhalation Toxicology
                Informa UK Limited
                0895-8378
                1091-7691
                July 03 2010
                January 2007
                July 03 2010
                January 2007
                : 19
                : 1
                : 67-106
                Article
                10.1080/08958370600985875
                17127644
                6d807288-46b6-4142-a500-20a7e6a12d71
                © 2007

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