Pollutants in smoke from winter fires can pose health risk

Washington State Department of Health

Smoke from wood fires—like the ones that keep your home warm and cozy in the winter—can be a health hazard for some people. Wood smoke and other air pollutants can be trapped near the ground when winter weather patterns cause stagnant air. Smoke contains fine particles and toxic gases that can be breathed deep into the lungs where they can cause immediate and long-term health problems. The level of air pollution that causes health problems is different for each person. Some people are at greater risk than others, and can have symptoms sooner, including: people with heart and lung disease, older adults who may have unrecognized health conditions, and children, whose developing lungs are more easily damaged. Often the pollution can’t be seen or smelled, so it can be helpful to check air quality before doing things outside, especially if you’re in a high-risk group. Real-time information on air quality conditions and statistics on air pollution for most counties is available online. You can check the Department of Health’s website for information on how air quality can affect your health.