Use of wood for residential heating is regaining popularity in developed countries. Currently, over 11 million US homes are heated with a wood stove. Although wood stoves reduce heating costs, wood smoke may adversely impact child health through the emission of gaseous and particulate air pollutants. Our purpose is to raise awareness of this environmental health issue among pediatricians. To summarize the state of the science, we performed a narrative review of articles published in PubMed and Web of Science. We identified 36 studies in developed countries that reported associations of household wood stove use and/or community wood smoke exposure with pediatric health outcomes. Studies primarily investigated respiratory outcomes, with no evaluation of cardiometabolic or neurocognitive health. Studies found community wood smoke exposure to be consistently associated with adverse pediatric respiratory health. Household wood stove use was less consistently associated with respiratory outcomes. However, studies of household wood stoves always relied on participant self-report of wood stove use, while studies of community wood smoke generally assessed air pollution exposure directly and more precisely in larger study populations. In most studies, important potential confounders, such as markers of socioeconomic status, were unaccounted for and may have biased results. We conclude that studies with improved exposure assessment, that measure and account for confounding, and that consider non-respiratory outcomes are needed. While awaiting additional data, pediatricians can refer patients to precautionary measures recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mitigate exposure. These include replacing old appliances with EPA-certified stoves, properly maintaining the stove, and using only dry, well-seasoned wood. In addition, several studies have shown mechanical air filters to effectively reduce wood stove pollution exposure in affected homes and communities.
Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care
Wood Stove Pollution in the Developed World: A Case to Raise Awareness Among Pediatricians.