EPA: Get Merry With a Smoke-Free Fire This Christmas

By Susan Jones | December 23, 2014 | 9:06 AM EST

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(CNSNews.com) - "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." But WAIT! Stop the music -- What is the moisture content of those logs? Before burning the logs, did you knock them together to see if they sounded hollow?

You really should go dashing through the snow to your local hardware store in search of a "moisture meter," the perfect gift for that environmentally paranoid person on your Christmas list. Those people are so hard to please, aren't they?

And be sure to check your local air quality forecast on airnow.gov before lighting a fire.

Alas, the Environmental Protection Agency recognizes that, "Across the country this holiday season, families and friends will gather around wood stoves or fireplaces."

But it also warns that "how you build that fire -- and what your burn -- can have a significant impact on air quality and health, both inside your home and out."

For instance, where there's smoke, there's a problem, says EPA: "Whether you’re using a wood stove, pellet stove, or your fireplace, seeing smoke from your chimney means your fire isn’t burning efficiently or cleanly as it could."

The agency that uses pollution controls to influence many aspects of human behavior wants you to know that wood smoke contains fine particles (also called particle pollution or PM2.5 -- no kidding!) which can harm the lungs, blood vessels and heart.

EPA offers the following tips for clean wood burning:

-- Burn only dry, seasoned wood that makes a hollow sound when thumped.
-- Buy a wood moisture meter. (Hey, what's another $20?)
-- Start a small fire with dry kindling, then add a few pieces of wood, keeping spaces in between for better, cleaner burning.
-- Never burn household garbage, cardboard, painted or treated wood. (Don't chop up the chifferobe, in other words.)

Finally, the EPA recommends using an EPA-certified wood stove to put less smoke into the air.

Oh, and happy new year! The EPA is updating its requirements for newly manufactured wood stoves, outdoor wood boilers and other wood heaters to make them cleaner in the future. EPA says it anticipates issuing final regulations by Feb. 3, 2015.

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