Health concerns to consider when burning a campfire

Ah summer. We finally get a chance to have days of sunshine on end.

But if you're planning to enjoy the great outdoors and  burn a campfire this summer, there are a few things to keep in mind, for your own health and everyone else's.

While numerous  forest fires in B.C. have been  caused by untended campfires (not to mention discarded cigarettes and matches), there are some health hazards to think about for your own safety.

Here's some information that the BC Lung Association sent out regarding campfires.

The BC Lung Association Cautions Campfire Lovers to Burn Clean
July 6, 2007 - Summer is traditionally a time when British Columbians come out of rain- induced hibernation to welcome sunshine, blue skies and nights spent camping under the stars.
“I look forward to getting out of the city to go camping all year round, ” says Jesse Eckert, Air Quality Coordinator of the BC Lung Association. “I’ve had some of my best times just kicking back with friends around the campfire, but there are a few important things we all need to keep in mind.”
“Unfortunately wood smoke contains a chemical soup of hazardous substances which can be a real irritant for even the healthiest people, but especially aggravating and even dangerous to the elderly, children, and persons with lung-health problems such as asthma,” continued Eckert.
Exposure to particulate matter and toxins emitted by wood smoke can lead to respiratory tract irritation, shortness of breath, headaches, and repeated exposure can lead to more serious lung problems and damage.
The BC Lung Association suggests a number of steps people can take to burn clean, reduce harmful emissions and continue to enjoy summer nights by the campfire:
  1. Burn small, hot, and controlled fires with good air ventilation;
  2. Burn only dry seasoned organic materials;
  3. Never burn garbage or prohibited materials such as plastic, treated wood, and tires;
  4. Do not burn wet materials such as leaves or branches, as they produce more smoke;
  5. Avoid starting fires with diesel or other fuels; and MOST IMPORTANTLY –
  6. When campfire time is over, make sure your fire is out!
Summertime is forest fire season in British Columbia, and forest fires are not only dangerous, but a key contributor to air pollution.
For more information on the relationship between air quality and human health, visit the British Columbia Lung Associations website at While on our website, check out the newly published “State of the Air Report 2007” as well as the video “Making a Difference: Air Quality and Your Health”. Both discuss current air pollution levels in BC and its affects on our health, while suggesting how British Columbians can make a difference.
About the BC Lung Association
A non-profit, non-governmental organization, the BC Lung Association is dedicated to improving lung health and promoting clean air initiatives across the province. Through public awareness campaigns, the BC Lung Association acts as an educational resource for the general public as well as those living with respiratory conditions. The BC Lung Association also specializes in patient support programs, community services and advanced medical research.