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Can Smoke From A Fire Pit Table Make You Sick?

September 01, 2023 5 min read

Can Smoke From A Fire Pit Table Make You Sick?

Yes, smoke from a fire pit table can make you sick.

Wood smoke contains fine particles that can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more susceptible to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The fine particulate matter component of wood smoke also represents a risk for cardiovascular disease, including arrhythmias, heart attacks, and strokes.

Wood smoke contains many organic compounds known to cause cancer, such as benzopyrenes, dibenzanthracenes, dibenzocarbazoles, and other toxic compounds. Inhaling air that is consistently at a higher temperature than normal can also be harmful.

Therefore, it is important to take precautions when using a fire pit table, such as using dry, seasoned wood, burning wood efficiently, and avoiding burning when air pollution health advisories have been issued in your area.

What Are the Specific Health Risks Associated With Inhaling Smoke From A Fire Pit Table, And How Do These Risks Compare To Other Sources Of Outdoor Air Pollution?

Inhaling smoke from a fire pit table can pose specific health risks. Here are the specific health risks associated with inhaling smoke from a fire pit table:

  1. Respiratory Irritation: Wood smoke contains irritants such as phenols, aldehydes, quinones, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides, which can irritate the respiratory tract and cause symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  2. Exacerbation of Existing Conditions: Fine particles in wood smoke can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cardiovascular conditions. Inhaling these particles can worsen symptoms and increase the risk of flare-ups or complications.
  3. Increased Risk of Infections: Communities with more wood smoke have been associated with higher rates of respiratory infections, coughs, wheezing, and ear infections.
  4. Toxic Air Pollutants: Wood smoke contains toxic air pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can have harmful effects on human health when inhaled.

When comparing the risks of inhaling smoke from a fire pit table to other sources of outdoor air pollution, it is important to consider the following:

  • Concentration: The concentration of pollutants in wood smoke can vary depending on factors such as the type of wood burned, the efficiency of the fire pit, and the ventilation. Other sources of outdoor air pollution, such as vehicle emissions or industrial pollution, may have different pollutant concentrations.
  • Duration of Exposure: The duration of exposure to smoke from a fire pit table is typically shorter and intermittent compared to continuous exposure to other outdoor air pollution sources. However, repeated exposure to wood smoke over time can still have adverse health effects.
  • Proximity: The proximity to the source of pollution also plays a role in the level of exposure. If a person is in close proximity to a fire pit table, they may experience higher levels of smoke inhalation compared to being exposed to outdoor air pollution from a distance.

It is important to note that inhaling smoke from any source, including fire pit tables, can have negative health effects. To minimize the risks, it is recommended to take precautions such as using dry-seasoned wood, ensuring proper ventilation, and avoiding prolonged exposure to the smoke.

Are there any measures or precautions that individuals can take to minimize their exposure to smoke from fire pit tables and reduce the potential negative health effects?

To minimize exposure to smoke from fire pit tables and reduce potential negative health effects, individuals can take the following measures and precautions:

  1. Keep Distance: Teach children and adults to keep their distance from fires and limit their exposure to wood smoke, especially if their respiratory systems are still developing.
  2. Choose a Safe Fire Pit Table: Look for a CSA-certified fire table made with durable outdoor materials and quality technology. CSA-certified fire tables have passed stringent safety tests, including temperature, wind, and rain testing. Gas fire pits do not emit sparks or embers, making them a safer option.
  3. Follow Local Fire Rules: Always check with your local fire authority to ensure compliance with local fire rules and regulations. This includes restrictions on fire bans and the use of fire pits during certain times.
  4. Cover and Maintain the Fire Pit: Purchase a cover for the fire pit table and regularly clean and maintain it to protect it from the elements. This helps ensure the safety and longevity of the product.
  5. Remove Combustible Materials: Before using the fire pit table, remove all combustible materials, such as leaves and paper, from the surrounding area to minimize the risk of accidental fires.
  6. Supervise the Fire Pit: The fire pit table should be attended to at all times by a responsible adult until it has been switched off. This helps prevent accidents and ensures the fire is properly extinguished.
  7. Use Proper Tools: When rearranging burning logs, use a poker log grabber or shovel to avoid direct contact with the fire and reduce the risk of burns.
  8. Burn Seasoned Firewood: Use only seasoned firewood and burn it in a way that promotes complete combustion. Small, hot fires are better than large, smoldering ones to minimize the amount of harmful smoke.

It’s important to note that while these precautions can help reduce exposure to smoke and mitigate risks, it’s always advisable to prioritize personal safety and follow local regulations and guidelines.

In terms of environmental impact, how does the smoke produced by fire pit tables contribute to air quality issues and potential health concerns for both individuals nearby and the wider community?

The smoke produced by fire pit tables can contribute to air quality issues and potential health concerns for both individuals nearby and the broader community. Smoke from burning wood is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles, which are also called particle pollution or particulate matter.

Fire pits often become a significant source of fine-particle air pollution, especially in metro areas. Burning wood in outdoor fire pits and chimineas is just as bad for air quality as burning wood in a fireplace or wood stove.

Children and teenagers, older adults, and people with heart or lung disease, including asthma and COPD, can be particularly sensitive to the health effects of particle pollution in wood smoke. Lingering smoke can be an issue even in wide-open areas, especially in winter when temperature inversions limit the flow of air.

Wood smoke contributes to the area’s air quality problem with PM 2.5, or fine particulate pollution, and it contains ultrafine particles. To reduce particle pollution, it is recommended to only burn seasoned dry wood, which burns hotter and cleaner, and to never burn wood during air quality alert days when air pollution is already higher.

It is also important to be a good neighbor when burning and consider your neighbors as well as wind direction.