Background

Over 85,000 homes on the Island of Montréal have wood stoves or fireplaces. Some people like to sit by a fire because of the atmosphere it creates. Others use wood stoves as back-up heating systems, and a few still use wood as their main source of heat.

Wood smoke pollutes outdoor air. This pollution can makes its way into neighbouring homes and affect indoor air quality. Indoor air can also be affected when a stove door is opened to add wood or if the stove leaks.

Pollutants from wood burning

A wood fire may seem peaceful, romantic and harmless, but it releases smoke that contains over a hundred different toxic substances: 

  • Fine particles (PM2.5) 
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Many irritants 

Regulations

To cut down on air pollution from wood-fired devices, the City of Montréal has adopted a by-law prohibiting the installation of all new wood-fired heating systems other than pellet-burning stoves and furnaces. The City is currently looking at a new regulatory proposal related to existing wood burning appliances.

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Vulnerable populations

Smoke from burning wood is bad for everyone's health. However, some people are especially sensitive to it: 

  • People with chronic heart or lung problems 
    • Their symptoms can worsen if they breathe in fine particles   
  • Older people
    • They suffer more often from chronic illnesses
  • Children
    • Their respiratory and immune systems are still developing 
    • Their respiration rate is higher, which means they could absorb more pollutants when the air is polluted   

Health effects

Pollutants in wood smoke increase the number of Montrealers affected by the following health problems:

  • Worsening asthma
  • Childhood bronchitis
  • Lung cancer

Smoke from burning wood also adds to air pollution, which causes over 1500 premature deaths each year in Montréal.

 

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Practical advice

What can you do to prevent problems or protect yourself?

Don't use a fireplace or wood stove during a smog alert unless the fireplace or stove is your main source of heat.

Suggested reading: 

Where to get additional reliable information? 

French site

 

 

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