NW States in Top 10 for Per Capita Wood-Burning Stove Pollution

Oregon, Warshington, and Idaho are again in the nation’s top ten, but this time it’s not for something they’d likely like to be known for. We and our neighboring states are among the top polluters, per capita, for fine particle emissions from wood-burning stoves and heaters, ranking seventh, ninth, and eighth, respectively.

Not OK, Says EPA

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted the study that revealed these troubling, but perhaps not surprising, results. With generally cooler climates and ample forests to supply firewood, as well as a regional U.S. Forest Service that counts on the removal of said firewood to help reduce the potential for forest fires, our area of the country is all but tailor-made for wood burning.

The Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality recently found that about one third of residents in the greater Portland area use wood-burning stoves and heaters regularly. Agency spokeswoman Marcia Danab stated that wood smoke often creates problems in southeast Portland and other areas of Oregon that experience inversions. Alerts warning residents of unhealthy air quality (caused by smoke) have been issued with increased frequency over the past several years.

Behold the implement of our destruction.

Behold the implement of our destruction.

Hoping to combat air quality issues, Oregon enacted a law in 2009 that required uncertified wood stoves to be removed and destroyed when a home is sold. Newer stoves that conform to EPA standards and produce far less particulates have been developed to replace these older stoves, Danab said.

Is High-Tech Wood-Burning Stove an Oxymoron?

Oregon has some of the nation’s strictest standards for wood-burning stove emissions. To meet those standards, the new stoves being installed throughout the state feature advanced technology that helps reduce emissions. According to Beth Urban of Rich’s For The Home, a Washington-based company that sells said stoves, a “secondary reburn system in the wood-burners eliminates a good portion of polluting particulates.

While the stoves are more expensive, with some models priced as high as $4,000, they save users money in the long run because they’re more efficient and more effective at distributing heat. Some models can generate the same amount of heat as older stoves using half the wood.

“It cuts […] consumption down quite a bit,” Urban said. “The newer wood stoves, you can load up the fire boxes to last six, eight, sometimes 10 hours.”

Photo credit: La Chachalaca Fotografía / Foter / CC BY-NC