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Res Rep Health Eff Inst. 2011 Dec;(162):3-37; discussion 39-47.

Assessing the impact of a wood stove replacement program on air quality and children's health.

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  • 1Center for Environmental Health Sciences, Department of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812, USA. USA.


Many rural mountain valley communities experience elevated ambient levels of fine particulate matter (PM*) in the winter, because of contributions from residential wood-burning appliances and sustained temperature inversion periods during the cold season. A wood stove change-out program was implemented in a community heavily affected by wood-smoke-derived PM2.5 (PM < or = 2.5 microm in aerodynamic diameter). The objectives of this study were to evaluate the impact of this intervention program on ambient and indoor PM2.5 concentrations and to identify possible corresponding changes in the frequency of childhood respiratory symptoms and infections and illness-related school absences. Over 1100 old wood stoves were replaced with new EPA-certified wood stoves or other heating sources. Ambient PM2.5 concentrations were 30% lower in the winter after the changeout program, compared with baseline winters, which brought the community's ambient air within the PM2.5 standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). The installation of a new wood stove resulted in an overall reduction in indoor PM2.5 concentrations in a small sample of wood-burning homes, but the effects were highly variable across homes. Community-level reductions in wood-smoke-derived PM2.5 concentration were associated with decreased reports of childhood wheeze and of other childhood respiratory health conditions. The association was not limited to children living in homes with wood stoves nor does it appear to be limited to susceptible children (e.g., children with asthma). Community-level reductions in wood-smoke-derived PM2.5 concentration were also associated with lower illness-related school absences among older children, but this finding was not consistent across all age-groups. This community-level intervention provided a unique opportunity to prospectively observe exposure and outcome changes resulting from a targeted air pollution reduction strategy.

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