The Danger of Non-EPA Approved Wood Burning Stoves

by S.K. LéVeillé

There are a number of reasons people use wood burning stoves.  They may believe it’s a safer/less expensive alternative, yet may not be fully informed.

It is one thing to use a non-EPA certified wood stove in a rural area where homes are not close together and quite another in metropolitan areas where regulations can be oddly lacking.  One’s entire home may end up smelling of the neighbor’s wood smoke.

Those affected complain about not being able to sleep at night, not being able to breathe properly, having no safe refuge in their own homes or yards from neighbor’s smoke.  What is happening?

According to a State of the Air, American Lung Association report, “Residential wood burning devices…are the largest source of particle pollution…wood burning also produces carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides,” just for starters.

Wood burning stoves manufactured before 1995 can also produce dioxin, arsenic, formaldehyde, creosote, methane and black carbon.

Even though EPA wood burning stoves have been available for some time, in an article by the Clean Air Council, Bret Watson, president of Jotul North America is quoted as saying that even new standards won’t “address the five million to seven million dirty stoves in use now.”  Jotul started a stove changeout program in 2013 with $300 credit plus a $10 donation per stove to American Lung Assn.  The program was so popular that a total of $14,500 was donated to ALA and Jotul said they would “likely repeat the program this year.”

From 2005-2009, there was The Great American Wood Stove Changeout Program where EPA partnered with the Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Assn., the American Lung Assn. and others.

During that time, 1,100 wood burning stoves were replaced in Libby, Montana, 3,200 in Sacramento, California, 500 in Michigan and more in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington and Wyoming.  Sadly, not in Minnesota or many other states but it is proof that it can be done.

According to the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality, “Wood smoke particles are so tiny they can seep into houses even through closed doors and windows.  So neighbors of wood burners probably breathe in smoky air…health effects of wood smoke include breathing problems…and increased severity of lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.”

Currently, the American Lung Assn. Northeast has Woodstove Changeout Programs in the Connecticut counties of New London and Windham,  Massachusetts counties of Bristol, Norfolk and Plymouth and Rhode Island counties of Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence and Washington.  Vouchers range from $300-4,000 depending on the appliance.

Holbrook, Arizona reported available rebates to residents of Navajo and Apache counties in 2010, changing out 350 stoves with about 17 tons of pollution removed.  In 2011, only 20% of available funds remained and the program ended December 31, 2011.

According to a Fox 11 Online news report out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, updated June 26, 2014, Wisconsin Public Service has partnered with the EPA and American Lung Assn.  As of the update, nearly $600,00 worth of rebates have been handed out.  Guidelines are available at–outdoor-air/wood-stove-exchange-program/documents/wood-stove-exchange-program.pdf

The HPBA co-sponsors changeout programs in parts of the U.S. and Canada.  For an update on which programs may be available, the website is:

The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota does not have an exchange program but the city does have an Environment Services department listed in the drop-down menu of the official city site.  Recommend going directly to Environment Services rather than dealing with 311 operators whose training may be limited.

The Lung/Action Network can give updates in the state you reside.  They can also help you find a representative in your state to contact and they have provided a message you can send and personalize if you wish.  The link is:

While progress is slower than we might like, it is heartening to see progress.  Much more needs to be done.  For tips on starting a wood stove changeout program in your area, see HPBA’s Starting A Program in Your Community at: