New EPA Rules on Wood Stoves and Wood-Fired Heaters

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced its intention of curbing emissions of particles and gases from residential wood stoves and other wood-fired heaters. This will be implemented for wood stoves and heaters that are to be built in 2015 or later. This new standard is evidence of EPA’s serious effort to eliminate pollutants that could lead to significant health hazards.

What do the new rules contain?

  • The proposed new rules affect homeowners as well as manufacturers of wood stoves, wood-pellet stoves, forced-air wood furnaces, wood boilers, fireplace inserts and masonry heaters. Manufacturers are required to build a new generation of devices that burn 80 percent cleaner than the current available models. The new rules would go into effect next year and these would become stricter after a span of 5 years.
  • The new rules do not address the use and the manufacture of outdoor wood furnaces. These are furnaces that may be harming users in a lot of US states found in the north.
  • The new rules do not apply to wood heaters that are already being used in residential fireplaces, in backyards, beaches and fire pits that are used by beachgoers and campers. It is also not applied to smokers, wood-fired barbecues and ovens used for pizza-making.

EPA is very keen on the effects of particulate matter on health. EPA Senior Adviser Alison Davis mentioned in an interview that EPA views particulate matter as a huge health issue. Inhalation of these dangerous materials has been known to lead to heart attacks, increase the incidence of strokes and could significantly aggravate asthma. There have been a number of studies that linked inhalation of particulate matter to premature death in people that have preexisting medical conditions such as heart and lung disease.

Wood smoke pollution facts:

  • Pollutants that are prominent in wood smoke are carbon monoxide and organic compounds. Organic compounds are responsible for smog.
  • A lot of families in the US are exposed to the dangers of wood smoke pollution. About 11.5 million U.S. homes still use wood for heat; this is an estimate according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • The EPA estimates that 85,695 wood stoves will be manufactured and sold in 2015 therefore the new rules will be able to address pollution for more years to come.
  • “No burn” alerts are issued in communities where wooden stoves are still being used and where wooden stoves are also used for heating homes. A no-burn alert will avert the use of these wooden devices when the concentration of particles in the air becomes too high.
  • Wood is still a popular and a cheap heat source in many places in the US namely in communities in New England, upper Midwest and the Northwest. Utah has banned the use of wood-burning stoves in five counties when weather conditions have led to high levels of fine particles in the air.

Different views of wood stove users and groups:

Different views were heard regarding the new EPA rules regarding wood burning stoves. Clean air and lung health advocates lauded EPA’s proposal. Frank O-Donnell, President of Clean Air Watch, a non-profit advocacy group has remarked: “This is a very important step towards protecting public health, particularly in areas where residential wood burning is widespread,”

The American Lung Association welcomed the proposed new standards. Both organizations also mentioned that a lot of cause-oriented groups that are focused on the environment and health have waited for many years after the EPA was required to update the original 1988 standards for some wood stoves in 1996. The delay even led to lawsuits by a variety of groups.

The groups were also pleased that devices other than wood stoves would be regulated for the first time under the EPA’s new proposal. This could help increase the program’s effectiveness since not just wooden stoves are responsible for environmental pollution.

John Crouch, director of public affairs for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, said his organization agrees that new standards are long overdue. However he is concerned that EPA laboratory testing does not cover the issues very closely. The tests do not reflect the way wood stoves and heaters are used by consumers. It is true that most particle pollution occurs because a large number of wood stoves are old. Pollution also happens because consumers do not use wood that has been sufficiently dried, Crouch said. Drying and preparing wood for wood burning stoves could help curb pollution and the development of air particulates.

“We’re not opposed to revision,” Crouch said in an interview. “We just want to make sure that this revision delivers some difference in people’s homes, and we’re not sure the data shows that.”

If you use wooden stoves or you are thinking of purchasing wooden stoves, the EPA new rules should be your guide to be able to reduce indoor home pollution. You may visit EPA official site for more information.


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