Last Wednesday, Keene State College held a public presentation about the dangers of burning wood in wood stoves. Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and co-presenter of the presentation Nora Traviss has evolved from researching on the side (working with New Hampshire department of environmental services) to taking a more engaging and active role with students monitoring data collections.
Co-presenter from the Southwest Region Planning Commission Henry Underwood explains how there is no longer only a public health issue, but a possible regulatory impact issue. This could disrupt things economically if air pollution is recorded to be off the charts. Keene itself has come scarily close to this multiple times over the years, which is why a very close eye is kept on it.
To stay on top of this ongoing issue, Keene State is actively working to collect data, while the Southwest Region Planning Commission takes on the role of everything else, such as monitoring data and advertising. Although it is mostly adults involved, there are students who are part of the wood stove changeout program as well. Students are engaged via the classroom and also through the environmental studies capstone sequence program, called the junior/senior seminar. This is where students help participate in data collection. Mentored students would also drive around Keene, collecting data samples.
The wood stove changeout program has gone to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to present their work and even received a health and communities grant to continue their studies. This will further allow them to present and publicize their information and collected data.
“It was really great to see the student turnout, and some residents, but we really need to pull in more,” Traviss said.
The wood stove changeout program is considering organizing a second public workshop to increase their turnout and educate even more people, especially the residents of Keene, on the reality of burning wood in wood stoves.
“We are mostly concerned about the long term health implications of these short term exposures,” Traviss and Underwood said. Recent scientific studies suggest that the short term peaks are problematic, which is what their current main focus is on right now, and will be their focus throughout the winter as people continue to burn wood to stay warm.
In their presentation, Traviss and Underwood also gave tips on how everyone can do their part in helping save the environment and clear the air. Their presentation said “burn the right wood,” which is dry seasoned hardwood. They also advise everyone uses the right type of stove, and burn whatever wood you use the right way, which means burning a hot, bright fire. In their presentation, they reminded attendees that “smoldering wood is inefficient and makes more smoke.”. When burning the right wood, it is best to use dry wood. They also said to “start fires with newspaper, dry kindling, or all natural fire starters”. This is opposed to burning household garbage, cardboard, painted wood, plywood, particle board, or wood that has glue on it. It is also strongly advised that nobody burns wet, rotted, diseased or moldy wood.
Students involved in the program did not respond for comment.
Julia Hawkins can be contacted at