Burning Smarter Can Be Safer

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COLUMBIA - Smoke from burning wood in a fireplace is inevitable, but the byproduct of fire is actually a significant contributor to air pollution, which also makes it hazardous to your health. But the Environmental Protection Agency says there are ways to decrease your environmental impact and still have a warm fire to sit by this winter.

Wood smoke actually contains carbon monoxide, smog-causing nitrogen oxides, soot, and other chemicals and gases.

This build-up generally goes unseen by homeowners on a daily basis, but can cause respiratory problems such as asthma and even lung disease.

Chimney sweeps like Joseph Ivicsics, of Advanced Chimney Techniques, get to see firsthand just how dirty this smoke is.

"You know, there are some jobs where I'm wearing a soot suit and I go in wearing white and come out looking black...There's a lot of reasons we wear the gloves, the respirator, the goggles...all that stuff," said Ivicsics.

To avoid releasing an excessive amount of smoke and pollutants into the air, there are a few things you can do:

- Burn the right kind of wood, that's been stored in a dry place for at least six months. Ivicsics suggests oak, hickory, walnut, ash or elm.

- You can also upgrade to an E-P-A certified fireplace insert, which is about 50% more efficient. This means you get more heat by using less wood, while also making your air cleaner and your fuel bill lower.

- Have your fireplace professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.