How unhealthy is a fireplace or wood stove?


It crackles so cozy and smells so good, the burning wood in a wood stove or fireplace. But combustion does release harmful substances. How harmful is that actually to your health?

One of the best benefits of winter is that the fireplace or wood stove can be used again. But for your health, you might not want to do that every night.

Heating nuisance due to particulate matter

In the Netherlands there are around 850,000 wood stoves and fireplaces in use. In principle, heating nuisance is harmful for everyone, but especially for people with lung complaints, COPD , asthma or another lung disease. As many as 1.2 million people in the Netherlands have a lung disease, of which 62 percent regularly suffer from shortness of breath due to heating nuisance.


This is because fine dust and other substances (such as PAHs) are released when burning wood fires, warns the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in a handy toolkit . This substance increases the risk of health problems. Complaints such as coughing, shortness of breath , watery eyes and a runny nose may develop. People can also end up in hospital due to a lung attack.

Burning candles

Now it is true that the air in your house always contains some particulate matter. If it’s not from the wood stove, it is from the gas stove. Fine dust is also released when burning candles . But this is not in proportion to a wood stove. With severe smoke nuisance, from your neighbors for example, you can experience the feeling that you are locked in your own home. Opening a window will only make it worse, because it will make all your stuff smell like smoke. Certainly in these times where we have to stay home as often as possible, there is nowhere to go.

Damp wood

Fortunately, you can do a lot to minimize the amount of harmful substances that come out of the wood stove or fireplace. For example, by only burning with dry wood, so that the fire gets hot and most of the dust will burn. The more humid the wood (and the worse the combustion), the more harmful substances are released. A good fire can be recognized by a calm and yellow flame and almost colorless smoke. Flickering orange flames and dark smoke are not a good sign.

This way you can burn more responsibly yourself

The RIVM also gives the following tips to limit the emission of harmful substances from your fireplace as much as possible:

  • Are you planning to buy a fireplace or stove? Then make sure that it is in proportion to the room. A stove that is too large can quickly make your room too warm, so that you tend to smother the fire. As a result, combustion is no longer optimal and more particulate matter is released. You will find all kinds of calculation tools on the internet to calculate the required capacity, but according to the RIVM it is better to ask a specialist.
  • Have your chimney swept at least once a year.
  • Always burn according to the ‘Swiss method’: thick wood on the bottom, loose wood and firelighters on top. Stack the wood loosely so that air can reach it. Instructional videos can be found on the internet.
  • Never use flammable liquids, such as methylated spirits, to start a wood fire.
  • Only burn dry, untreated and split wood that has been outside under a shelter for at least two years. The logs should not be thicker than seven centimeters.
  • Never use painted, stained or impregnated wood: combustion can release very harmful substances. This also applies to paper, cardboard and newspapers!
  • Do you have neighbors? It is better not to heat in windless or foggy weather conditions, because then the smoke will linger around your house (and that of the neighbors).  You can check whether or not it is a good day to light a fire on the amazon website.
  • Light your stove less often and burn for no more than four hours a day. That way you stay friends with the neighborhood.
  • Fully open the exhaust valve to the chimney when you start firing. Do you have a wood stove? Always leave the air supply openings open. If it gets too hot, open a window and stop placing logs on the fire. Due to the increased risk of particulate matter, throttling is out of the question.
  • Always let a fire go out on its own.
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