Hazards of burning the wrong things in your fireplace
It’s best to burn only dry, seasoned hardwood in your fireplace. There are many other things that create hazards when burned. Here are some things you should never burn in your fireplace, grouped under the hazards they create:
Never use accelerants like gasoline, kerosene, or barbecue lighter fluid to light your fire. An explosion is a real possibility. Aerosol cans will also explode if heated in the fireplace.
Burns Too Hot:
Charcoal and coal produce higher temperatures than wood and may damage your fireplace or your fireplace grate. Evergreen boughs, especially dry ones like those of a Christmas tree, have flammable resin that can flare up, potentially igniting any creosote build-up that may be present in the chimney.
Releases Toxic Fumes:
Household trash may contain styrofoam, colored paper, aluminum foil, plastics, dryer lint, and household chemicals. Any trash with colored ink or dyes may release toxic fumes when burned. No plastics or metals are safe to burn in your fireplace.
Releases Heavy Metals, including lead, chromium, and titanium:
Fumes from painted, or stained, wood may contain heavy metals that are toxic, even in small doses.
Releases copper, chromate, and arsenic:
To preserve wood, processors inject copper, chromate, and arsenic into the wood under pressure. These same chemicals that kill insects and fungi can kill people, when the fumes are inhaled. When treated wood burns, the light fluffy product, called fly ash, is very easily inhaled—with disastrous results.
Causes Allergic Reactions:
The vines and leaves of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac contain a chemical called urushiol that causes skin rashes in ordinary contact. No matter how dry and shriveled the leaves and vines may be, they will give off heavy doses of urushiol when burned, causing a potentially fatal inflammation of the respiratory tract and lungs.
Releases Formaldehyde, Hydrochloric Acid, or Dioxin:
Plywood, particleboard, chipboard and oriented strand board (OSB), are manufactured with chemicals that produce toxins and carcinogens when burned.
Green firewood with a moisture content above 20% burns slowly, producing excessive creosote deposits in the chimney. Creosote is the leading cause of chimney fires which can smolder out of sight for days before bursting into flames.