Burning anything other than wood in your fireplace or wood stove can be extremely dangerous for many reasons. Fireplaces and wood stoves are meant to burn wood, but often people are tempted to use them as mini personal incinerators. You may think that it is better to burn up certain household garbage rather than burying it in a landfill but in fact, it is not. Burning anything other than wood may seem harmless, but can be harmful to the environment, to you and your family’s health, and to your fireplace or stove.
Let’s go over some items that you should not be burning in your fireplace or wood stove and why.
Paper and Cardboard – Paper and cardboard are often treated with chemicals or contain inks which contain chemicals. Burning these chemicals can release harmful hazardous fumes into the air that you breathe in your home. Paper and cardboard also have the potential to float in the air as it is burning. These floating, burning pieces could leave your fireplace and start a fire in your home. They could also travel up your chimney and cause a chimney fire or another exterior structure to catch fire.
Plastics – When plastic is burned, you do not really destroy them; you just change their chemical form and release hazardous fumes. When plastics are burned, Dioxin, a highly toxic chemical that does not decompose and builds up in human and animal tissues, is released into the air and ash. Airborne dioxin settles in soils and on vegetation. So however the ash is disposed of, its toxic legacy will remain.
Pressure Treated Lumber, Plywood, Particle Board, and Press Board - Similar to paper and cardboard, these items often contains man-made chemicals that are harmful when burned and when the vapors are breathed in.
Christmas Trees & Green Firewood – This happens quite a bit during the holiday season. People will want to discard dead branches or the trimmings into their fireplace or wood stove after putting their tree up. However, this will create significant smoke in the home as the tree is “green”. That extra smoke from green firewood greatly increases creosote buildup in your chimney.
Newer wood stoves are safety tested and certified to ensure that, when properly installed and used, they will work well and be safe. However, they are only tested with wood as a fuel. As a result, none of the safety features, instructions or clearances provided by manufacturers will be valid if the stove is used as a trash incinerator. Even if burning household garbage was not harmful to you and the environment, it still is not worth burning in a wood stove or fire place because they are poor fuel sources that provide very little heat with large amounts of ash. If you are just burning some of the things mentioned to get your fire started, it is time to stop and find a more appropriate fire starter.
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