Those of us who long for the simple rural life may wish to believe that burning wood in our homes is healthful. In fact, the resulting smoke reduces air quality and threatens the health of neighbors downwind of our chimneys and also in our own homes.
An article in The Guardian by Damian Carrington, “Wood burners triple harmful indoor air pollution, study finds” (Dec. 18, 2020), warns that:
“Wood burners triple the level of harmful pollution particles inside homes and should be sold with a health warning, say scientists, who also advise that they should not be used around elderly people or children.”
Especially when stove doors are opened to add wood, particles in smoke enter the living space and are breathed into the lungs, from where they are diffused through the body.
Not only that, but wood smoke “also contains carcinogenic chemicals including benzene and formaldehyde.”
We might think that wood smoke is natural and harmless, but “There is no reason to believe that particulate matter from wood-burning stoves is less toxic than that from other sources, such as combustion of fossil fuels.”
And open-air fires in fireplaces are even worse, for both inside and outside air quality.
See details and links in The Guardian.
And then there is the problem of disposing of ashes, which may still be live and cause smoke or fire; and excessive heat can degrade structural wood near the stove and increase the likelihood of a house fire.