Ahh, fireplaces: cozy, romantic, and … as bad for you as car exhaust fumes? Apparently so: New research reveals that breathing in the smoke from open fires or wood-burning stoves can lead to cancer, and heart and lung disease. The airborne particles in the smoke are particularly harmful because they’re so small they can reach the deepest part of the lungs, the Daily Mail reports.
Similar particles are created by coal-fired electricity plants and vehicle exhaust. When human cells were exposed to wood smoke, “substantial DNA damage and mutation took place,” says the lead scientist. “It was comparable to the effects of particles given off by traffic.” He adds that the danger can be reduced by only burning dry wood, cut into small pieces. The scientists also found that in rural areas, wood smoke particles contaminated nearby crops.