2010 April 14: CT: EHHI: A Study of the Serious Health Impacts on People Living in the Vicinity of Outdoor Wood Furnaces – also known as Outdoor Wood Boilers

2010 April 14: CT: EHHI: A Study of the Serious Health Impacts on People Living in the Vicinity of Outdoor Wood Furnaces – also known as Outdoor Wood Boilers

Wood smoke plume
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Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI) has conducted an extensive study that measured the potential wood smoke inhalation by persons living in homes that are in the vicinity of outdoor wood furnaces (OWFs). The immediacy of the OMF health problem is shown by the high levels of wood smoke emissions that EHHI measured inside neighboring houses.
Two of the most hazardous components of wood smoke – particulate matter measuring 2.5, and particulate matter 0.5 were significantly elevated inside homes near outdoor wood furnaces. High levels were present in every 24 hour period tested in every home. 
The charts below show that wood smoke particulate exposures in every home impacted by an OWF is extreme. The level of particulates in the impacted houses is many times higher than in the control houses that were tested.
The study shows that emissions from the OWFs enter neighboring homes at all hours of the day and night contaminating inside air, particularly in the night-time when residents are asleep. In addition to the particulates of wood smoke that were measured inside these impacted homes, the emissions also included: carbon monoxide; respiratory irritants; volatile gases; carcinogens and neurotoxins.
Indoor Air Testing conducted by Environment and Human health, Inc. (EHHI)

  • EHHI measured the two particle sizes designated by EPA to be the most dangerous to human health. They are PM 2.5 and PM 0.5.   Both of these particulates were continually recorded in the impacted homes. Both hourly averages and minute by minute data were collected.
  • Control houses were selected based on the absence of outdoor wood burning devices in their immediate neighborhood.

Health effects from the wood smoke inside houses.
There is no doubt that emissions from the OWFs are entering these homes.
Episodes of short-term exposures to extreme levels of fine particulates from wood smoke and other sources for periods as short as two hours produce significant adverse health effects.
Outdoor wood smoke is the primary cause of the indoor exposures to wood smoke.  Wood smoke is a mixture of particulate matter and organic chemicals of different toxicities  – including cancer.
Components of wood smoke are similar to cigarette smoke. Both are carcinogenic and respiratory toxins.  Wood smoke contains fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. Wood smoke also contains chemicals known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxin.
Wood smoke interferes with normal lung development in infants and children. It increases children’s risk of lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Wood smoke exposure can depress the immune system and damage the layer of cells in the lungs that protect and cleanse the airways.
Wood smoke causes coughs, headaches, eye, and throat irritation in otherwise healthy people.  For vulnerable populations, such as people with asthma, chronic respiratory disease and those with cardiovascular disease, wood smoke is particularly harmful— even short exposures can prove dangerous. 
The particles of wood smoke are extremely small and therefore are not filtered out by the nose or the upper respiratory system. Instead, these small particles end up deep in the lungs where they remain for months, causing structural damage and chemical changes. Wood smoke’s irritants and carcinogenic chemicals which adhere to the tiny particles, enter deep sensitive regions of the lungs where the toxic injury is higher..
Fine particles, that go deep into the lungs, increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. EPA warns that for people with heart disease, short- term exposures have been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias. If you have heart disease, these tiny particles may cause chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Also present in the smoke emitted is carbon monoxide — not only an immediate health risk but if exposures are continual can lead to neurological effects.
Children and the elderly have the highest sensitivity to wood smoke. However, no age group is without risk to respiratory problems including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that result from breathing wood smoke.  The effects are cumulative. 
Science and risk in neighborhoods
A study by the University of Washington in Seattle showed that 50 to 70 percent of the outdoor levels of wood smoke were entering homes that were not burning wood. EPA did a similar study in Boise, Idaho, with similar results.  The state of Washington has banned Outdoor Wood Boilers/ Furnaces.  The data in the charts attached show that similar exposures are occurring in Connecticut.
The air impact of health exposure to wood smoke is increased two-fold during periods with stagnant air. Under those conditions, the inhaled dose levels of particulate within houses approach the hazardous level found in regulated work sites by OSHA.  EHHI found smoke entering houses every day at even higher levels. 
The particulate matter and gases in wood smoke are so small that windows and doors cannot keep them out—even the newer energy-efficient weather-tight homes cannot keep out wood smoke. This is consistent with reports from people in the EHHI study that their children awaken in the middle of the night having difficulty breathing.
Why are outdoor wood furnaces different from other wood burning devices?
Outdoor wood furnaces create different smoke emissions as they cycle between two different burning conditions –oxygen deficient and oxygen rich.  Both of these cycles form particulates in the size-ranges that were measured..
Outdoor wood smoke from OWFs is cool. The wood smoke comes out of the stack and then remains at stack level or falls to ground level where the wood smoke plume can travel up to ½ a mile and infiltrate houses in the plume’s path.  Importantly, OWF smoke emissions, by the OWF’s basic design, are cooled by the water being heated in the outdoor wood furnace and then the cooled smoke emissions stay at ground level and do not dissipate for hours.  Such cooling is fundamental to the design and function of the outdoor wood boiler.
Connecticut’s current regulatory approach has failed to address the health risks from OWFs. The approach has been enforcement through inspection and issuing of notices of violation when smoke is visible. That technique has failed to either detect violations of OWFs that occur at night or to determine the seriousness of the problem. Moreover the hazardous fine particulates are not visible nor do they have an odor.  Further, the US EPA’s and the state’s cooperative effort with the industry to devise a “model rule” for the regulation of outdoor wood burning devices is also flawed and fails because the agencies and their industry collaborators have collected no information on the actual impact of the emissions inside homes.  That is the case even though such data have been continuously requested by the exposed families for the last ten years. 
Summary
The use of Outdoor Wood Furnaces need to be restricted in Connecticut until better technologies are found.
Health effects are known to occur at current ambient air levels of PM 2.5, in Connecticut that include increased asthma attacks in children, heart attacks, chronic obstructive lung disease and cancer.  A report in the March 2009 issue of the peer reviewed “American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care” published by the American Thoracic Society, show that reducing fine particulate in air reduced mortality risks.  OWF emissions increase both PM 2.5 and fine particles inside impacted homes at far higher levels than found in ambient air as shown in the charts.
Pulmonary diseases and heart attacks increase after only a few hours of exposures to particulates in the air.  It is important that the legislature be reminded that the contamination of air found in this study is several times higher than is found outdoors on even the most polluted days in Connecticut.
It is essential that Connecticut follow the lead of Washington State and restrict the use of outdoor wood burning furnaces. It is equally necessary to take immediate steps to reduce the serious exposures now occurring.
This has been written by David R. Brown ScD, Public Health Toxicologist for Environment and Human Health, Inc., (EHHI) a non-profit organization comprised of physicians, public health professionals and policy experts and I am an expert in the field.
Dr. Brown is also an Adjunct Professor of Applied Ethics, Fairfield University    Phone 203-259-5698

 EPA Air Quality Index for PM 2.5  (with particulate counts scale estimate)
 EPA has developed the Air Quality Index to compare health risks from exposures of less than 24 hour exposures. 

Air Quality Exposure (ug/m3) Exposure  Particle (counts/ 0.01 ft3)
Good 0 – 20 0 – 45
Moderate 21 – 40 45  – 95
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 41 – 60 95 –  140
Unhealthy for all 61 – 80 140 – 195
Very Unhealthy 81 –  120 over  195

                                                                     

Charts below show impacted houses called A,B,C and D that were each measured over 3 days.  Periods of very high exposures are seen for both PM 2.5 and 0.5 particulates for every house for every day. There are some periods of the day when the impacted houses have their particulate matter recede – but most of the time there are elevated exposures which last for hours  — tending to peak in the middle of the night when residents are sleeping.


The charts above show hourly measurements over three consecutive days at House A (subjected to OWF smoke) as well as the average hourly measurements in houses not near OWFs.  The straight horizontal line on the PM 2.5 chart (top) is equivalent to the EPA’s ambient air quality standard. Levels of PM 2.5 that exceed the EPA standard are associated with asthma or COPD  attacks and hospitalizations, and are also associated with increased risk of cardiac attacks.These charts show dangerously high levels of smoke particulates inside the OWF impacted house at all hours of the day, especially at night, compared to normal houses.


The charts above show hourly measurements over three consecutive days at House
B (subjected to OWF smoke) as well as the average hourly measurements in houses not near OWFs.  The straight horizontal line on the PM 2.5 chart (top) is equivalent to the EPA’s ambient air quality standard. Levels of PM 2.5 that exceed the EPA standard are associated with asthma or COPD  attacks and hospitalizations, and are also associated with increased risk of cardiac attacks.These charts show dangerously high levels of smoke particulates inside the OWF impacted house at all hours of the day, especially at night, compared to normal houses. 


The charts above show hourly measurements over three consecutive days at House C (subjected to OWF smoke) as well as the average hourly measurements in houses not near OWFs.  The straight horizontal line on the PM 2.5 chart (top) is equivalent to the EPA’s ambient air quality standard. Levels of PM 2.5 that exceed the EPA standard are associated with asthma or COPD  attacks and hospitalizations, and are also associated with increased risk of cardiac attacks.These charts show dangerously high levels of smoke particulates inside the OWF impacted house at all hours of the day, especially at night, compared to normal houses. 


The charts above show hourly measurements over three consecutive days at House D (subjected to OWF smoke) as well as the average hourly measurements in houses not near OWFs.  The straight horizontal line on the PM 2.5 chart (top) is equivalent to the EPA’s ambient air quality standard. Levels of PM 2.5 that exceed the EPA standard are associated with asthma or COPD  attacks and hospitalizations, and are also associated with increased risk of cardiac attacks.These charts show dangerously high levels of smoke particulates inside the OWF impacted house at all hours of the day, especially at night, compared to normal houses. 

AVERAGE Hourly Particle levels PM 2.5 micron inside of houses near
outdoor wood boilers
 Particles /0.01 cubic foot of air.   OWB (N= 12) (3 days in 4 houses)
Background ( N=13)  7 different houses

Blue is impacted houses —  pink is control houses
AVERAGE Hourly Fine particle levels PM 0.5 micron inside of houses near outdoor wood boilers
 Particles /0.01 cubic foot of air.   OWB (N= 12) (3 days in 4 houses)
Background ( N=13)  7  houses  
The above two charts show dangerously high levels of smoke particulates inside houses near OWFs at all hours of the day, especially at night, compared to normal houses.

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