"Pollution from burning wood in stoves, fireplaces and elsewhere is the top cancer risk in Oregon's air, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysis.
Burning wood and other organic material creates a greater risk than even benzene, a carcinogen belched by cars and trucks in the tens of thousands of tons each year, the analysis indicates. By contrast, the main toxins from incomplete combustion of burning wood -- a class of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (you can smell them) -- measure in the low hundreds of tons a year from Oregon's residential sources.
'The PAHs are nasty things,' said Ted Palma, an EPA scientist who led the agency's latest National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment, released last month.
The EPA assessment, based on 2002 emissions data, ranked Oregon's air high in cancer risk. The state placed third highest in the nation in the number of people -- about 152,000 -- living in census tracts with a cancer risk of 100 in a million, the EPA's benchmark level of concern."