The toxicology of inhaled woodsmoke

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2002 Jul-Sep;5(3):269-82. doi: 10.1080/10937400290070062.


In addition to developing nations relying almost exclusively upon biomass fuels, such as wood for cooking and home heating, North Americans, particularly in Canada and the northwestern and northeastern sections of the United States, have increasingly turned to woodburning as an alternate method for domestic heating because of increasing energy costs. As a result, the number of households using woodburning devices has increased dramatically. This has resulted in an increase in public exposure to indoor and outdoor woodsmoke-associated pollutants, which has prompted widespread concern about the adverse human health consequences that may be associated with prolonged woodsmoke exposure. This mini-review article brings together many of the human and animal studies performed over the last three decades in an attempt to better define the toxicological impact of inhaled woodsmoke on exposed children and adults; particular attention is given to effects upon the immune system. General information regarding occurrence and woodsmoke chemistry is provided so as to set the stage for a better understanding of the toxicological impact. It can be concluded from this review that exposure to woodsmoke, particularly for children, represents a potential health hazard. However, despite its widespread occurrence and apparent human health risks, relatively few studies have focused upon this particular area of research. More laboratory studies aimed at understanding the effects and underlying mechanisms of woodsmoke exposure, particularly on those individuals deemed to be at greatest risk, are badly needed, so that precise human health risks can be defined, appropriate regulatory standards can be set, and accurate decisions can be made concerning the use of current and new woodburning devices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Heating / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Respiration Disorders / etiology*
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Wood*


  • Smoke