Throw Another Manufactured, Asthma-Friendlier Log on the Fire

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It’s cold (even here), the holidays are closing in, and new readers have been landing at Asthma Mom through Google searches like,

Are fireplaces bad for asthma?
Indoor air quality + fireplaces
Are fireplaces eco-friendly?
Natural gas vs. wood burning fireplaces

You get the idea.

If you landed here through a search for wood burning fireplace information, welcome! Pull up a keyboard and join me at the Blog of Inferior Breathing. It’s all fun, games, and inhalers here.

I’m fessing up to using my wood burning fireplace more than I should. And no, I haven’t installed one of those EPA modifications to make it more efficient, either, since I’m moving after Christmas.

A nice, bright wood fire is hard to resist on cold nights — especially during the holidays, even though my daughter has asthma, and particularly when she and her sister beg for one. They’re cheerful, right? Festive, in fact.

Except.

1. Burning wood is a spectacularly inefficient way to heat a home. The resources you consume vs. benefits obtained aren’t even close to balanced.

2. And burning any organic matter like firewood (and leaves and yard waste and so on) releases fine particles and carbon monoxide into the air. Check out this handy graph to see just how much particulate matter a fireplace will emit.

3. Even if your well-constructed, clean chimney with a good working flue releases most of the particle-filled smoke outside, some of those particles escape into the air inside your home. Where everyone breathes them in, including any asthma sufferers.

4. So wood burning fireplaces = bad for air quality (inside and outside) + bad for health. Especially for people with asthma or other lung issues.

Back in that previous post, I wrote about ways to make my own fireplace more asthma-friendly, and those are all good tips if you haven’t read them.

In this post, though, I’m highlighting manufactured firelogs like Duraflame and Java Logs. Duraflame used to use petroleum-based ingredients in their logs but recently switched to an all-natural formulation. These companies compress all-natural plant waxes and recycled material like sawdust and coffee grounds into “logs” that burn cleaner and more efficiently than wood. They’re not particle-free, of course, but they release a much lighter load into the air than traditional wood.

Plus, manufactured firelogs use up organic waste material instead of slow-growing trees.

There’s no such thing as a perfectly healthy wood burning fire — not for humans and not for the environment — but I compromise by sticking with those asthma-friendlier/eco-friendlier fireplace tips in the previous post and (sometimes) relying on manufactured firelogs.