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    Wood Pellet Dust
    auras_at_noon2 posted:
    Hi Dr. Enright and posters- I am wondering if other asthma patients have this problem. We are new to a wood pellet stove. I am the one who seems to be in charge of "feeding" it and scraping the burner pot.

    I am finding that I am getting sicker and doing a lot of heavy coughing and making a lot of "slime", sorry to be indelicate, but that's what it is. It is so bad!!! I am sure a little gust of sawdust (and goodness knows what else) comes poofing out of each cup of pellets I add, and there is probably ash or soot that isn't being sucked up when I scrape it down and wash the glass. I am waking up having full blown asthma episodes. This isn't bothering my husband at all.

    I have a hunch this could be a growing problem.

    I wondered what people are doing to manage this?

    My immediate plan is to run my ancient air processor; and to wear a protective mask when I do the loading and cleaning; and continue my meds as directed.

    My primary care doc isn't familiar with this, so I am asking for someone's input. HELP!!! Gasp gasp.

    I appreciate any information you have. Please help. Thanks so much.

    There is always a bright side: the pellet stove is a grreat way to help supplement the oil furnace!
    Bec07 responded:
    Any kind of particulates in the air will aggravate asthma. In the short term, a good mask may help. In the long term, make your husband do it since it doesn't bother him.

    Aqua14 responded:
    I would say that it's not so much the dust from the wood pellets (although that can't do you any good), but the gases and other smoke-related particulates given off by the wood pellet stove. Being around any kind of smoke (cigarette, fireplace, wood stove, candles) is very bad for those of us with asthma. Although I have a very nice fireplace in my family room, sadly I can no longer use it if I want to have my asthma under control.

    I would also wonder what exactly the wood pellets are made of -- might they be made of chemically treated wood, or non-wood products such as nut hulls?

    An air cleaner may possibly help somewhat, but I wonder if it could keep up with the sheer volume of particulates emitted by the stove, and I don't think it would clean the air of gases that might be irritating to your lungs. I would be very concerned if this were me. Although the pellet stove might be cost-effective in terms of heat, it may be very much more costly in terms of your health, both in terms of increased asthma medications and more medical visits, and just feeling lousy all the time.

    Just my 2 cents' worth; hope it helps! Take care & good luck. Judy
    PaulEnright responded:
    Dear Susy, Welcome to our asthma message board. I agree with Judy and Becca that smoke (very small particles) from the stove is more likely than dust from the pellets to be causing your asthma to "act up," especially in the middle of the night. The air circulated from your oil furnace keeps the smoke in your indoor air. The problem is worsened by tight insulation and minimizing the opening of doors and windows to keep out the cold.

    I understand that the installation of a cleaner heating system for your home may be prohibitively expensive. Running large, quiet, HEPA air cleaners in several rooms, especially your bedroom, will be helpful in removing the smoke. Asking someone else to feed and clean the new pellet stove will reduce your exposures somewhat (to the larger particles which clog your nose). Using a sinus rinse to keep your nose clear (so that it can continue its job as an air filter and air conditioner) will reduce the particles inhaled into your lungs (which are causing airway inflammation). Resist the urge to light candles, use the fireplace, or be around smokers.

    You will probably need higher daily doses of your asthma controllers than usual. Be sure to check your peak flow or FEV1 each morning to see when you are falling into the orange zone. Ask your doctor for a prescription for ten days of prednisone, which you can start if you fall into the red zone (according to your written asthma action plan).

    Please let us know what works, since there are many others with asthma who also must use heating sources which worsen their asthma.
    auras_at_noon2 responded:
    Hi Dr Enright-- thank you VERY much for the reply. It is very helpful.

    How I am managing for now is keeping the HEPA air processor going and that is extremely helpful. Also, I am wearing a blue filter mask securely over my nose and mouth when I need to go near the stove to work on it and for awhile after. My husband can heft the 40-lb bags to feed it and he does, but I use smaller scoops during the day. He does the heavy cleaning of it which is done once a week. I won't stay in the room/house at that time. That combination has taken care of the problem for now, or helped greatly. I WILL keep track of my peak flow and didn't have any for awhile! I was too sick to think for myself. I can also wash my nose. I do have a HEPA air processor in the bedroom.

    When I was sick, I noticed that the pellets themselves do indeed give a "gust of dust" when filling the stove, and this stuff has large particles that are extremely irritating to the throat and upper airway. I felt it was equivalent to inhaling flying sawdust. I never exprerienced anything like it, and was thinking how bad it is that pellets don't come with a warning! In researching pellets, I saw where workers are covered in hazmat kinds of gear.

    I know that smoke and the very fine ash can be very bad. In defense of the stove, it has a vacuum feature that assists with a forced clean burn of the product; this runs as the stove cools itself down, and this is good in that it cuts way down on the amount of stuff that is expelled compared with a wood stove (having experience with both). I know there IS quite a lot of stuff from the stove because it settles on the piano and mantle and everywhere including lungs of course. Anyone who runs a pellet stove needs to plan on dusting a lot. However it continues to be a help with the heat. There are all qualities of pellet stoves, but we opted for the best that pretty much starts and runs itself. It was professionally installed.

    I have a dx of mild of only mild asthma, and I wondered what families who have severe asthma would be faring!! Hopefully their specialist (if they have one) would warn them away from it. There should be a lot of concern and info about it, but there is obviously a huge gap. We live in Maine where alternative heating options are popular, esp. when the price of fuel oil topped $5.00/gal. I am a retired teacher which explains cost concerns.

    I DO now appreciate the danger and wish we had been better informed at the get-go. People in general here need to be taught about this. There just isn't enough common knowledge about it.

    I am relieved to be doing great, and will take every precaution I can.

    It might be time for more info to hit the tv and newspaper. Heating options can be necessary, but steps to manage them are important also.

    Thank you SO very much for responding. It will be interesting to see how it goes publicly.
    leeott replied to Aqua14's response:
    Just updating this thread as Its 4 years old and coming up to snow season . Aqua 14 , I am grateful for your post and just cancelled an appointment I had to see a pellet stove.
    bob59601 responded:
    Oh my, I was doing a search after jog/walking my dog this evening.

    I've been having those identical symptoms for nearly 3 or 4 years that seem to be worse each year. During this time my neighbors had been gradually installing wood pellet stoves and now my house is completely surrounded by wood burning of all type, but mostly pellet stoves. I can see the metal vents on the side of the houses as I walk my dog as well as notice thick white smoke emitting from roof vents on warmer days when natural gas doesn't show. I was surprised this evening because I felt great and the intermittent jogging wasn't affecting me until the asthma attack happened, exactly as auras_at_noon2 describes above, clear slime and all, it occurred just after I passed a large house containing at least three pellet stoves that is owned by a couple about my age and the temp is chilly, currently in the low 50's here. My next door neighbor installed pellet stoves in her upper bedrooms and opened an air bnb directly next door this last summer and has guests today too!
    I would suspect Aqua14 just hit the nail on the head about the cause of all my respiratory problems!, as I had been previously diagnosed with having 'exercise induced' asthma.
    Glad to finally learn for certain what the problem is and the source. Can't really do anything about it other than move, but knowing makes me feel less anxious.

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