Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire…

By Lina Younes

This past weekend my children decided to set up the Christmas tree.  At the end of the decorating event, they asked that we light up the chimney to sit back, have hot cocoa and roast marshmallows. Even though the evening was not that cold, we willingly complied because we wanted to share this special family moment around the open fire as the song goes.

While fireplaces may conjure fond memories of winters past, the fact is that you shouldn’t use just any type of wood or paper in a fireplace or wood-burning appliance. The key is to burn the right wood, the right way, in the right appliance. If you use the wrong type of wood and an unsafe appliance, the burning process may generate too much smoke with the wrong mix of gases and fine particles that may lead to serious health effects.

EPA has a partnership program, BurnWise, designed to create awareness on the proper materials and tools to protect your health, home and environment. It provides useful tips and advice in the selection of wood burning stoves and EPA Certified appliances. In addition to outreach materials, the website also has useful information on certain communities that have local ordinances to reduce wood smoke.

The proper use of the wood and these fuel-burning appliances will go a long way to protect your family and even prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for weekly tips on our BurnWise program. Send us your comments. We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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