As austerity hit Greek households are forced to turn to wood burning indoors for heat, yet more health warnings have been issued. The latest warnings focus on the risks of breathing in the chemical particles contained in smoke produced from wood.
Just days after the Greek Environment Ministry issued a warning that a significant health risk is posed by the increasing trend of households turning to woodburners and indoor fires, another warning has drawn attention to the health risks.
Ekathimerini reported the Greek Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) has warned that burning wood indoors raises 30 times more pollutants than a well maintained boiler. The resultant increase in air pollution can cause respiratory problems and disturb the reproductive and neurological systems.
Ta Nea reported on the findings of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the health risks of burning wood indoors. EPA findings show a fireplace that works for one hour produces 4,300 times more tiny airborne particles than 30 cigarettes, and the particles are carcinogenic.
The report goes on to state: "In infants and young children, exposure to smoke can affect the normal development of the lungs and increase the risk of outbreak of infections of the lower respiratory tract, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Furthermore, exposure to smoke can weaken the immune system and cause damage to the layers of cells that protect and cleanse the airways."
Other health risks cited are coughs, headaches and irritation of the eyes and neck in otherwise healthy people.
As layers of smog hover over major Greek cities from the return to traditional methods of heating homes, households now face increased health risks as a direct consequence of government policies which have made alternate forms of heating unaffordable for the majority.