December 26, 2013

A Cozy (& Scientific) Fire—No Fireplace Required. {Long-Running Video}

My husband and I have lived in several different apartments and homes that either had no fireplace or where the landlord didn’t allow us to use the one that existed.

At one point, we missed the glow of a cozy, warm fire on a chilly winter’s evening so much that, well, we found a video of one to play on our television set.

On occasion, I’ll still turn this video on (it’s now on Netflix online) because, quite frankly, we ironically created our own fond memories of family fires in that psuedo-fireplace—ours just happened to be of a faux fire that didn’t create any actual warmth.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that my favorite science channel on YouTube—AsapSCIENCE—created a similarly-themed video—only this one is even nerdier than our original.

This perfect post-holiday movie runs for an hour, like nearly all the other fireplace ones do as well, and accompanying the screen’s flickering image is—also like the others—a crackling fireplace-like sound. However, what makes this particular selection different is that instead of merely a video recording of a burning log, AsapSCIENCE’s shows the elements involved in the wood-burning process—like carbon, hydrogen and oxygen—and the way they combine during the fire process to form various gases—like carbon dioxide, for example.

Now, before my environmental buddies write in about the waste of energy used to run your laptop or TV, or both, to produce this housewarming effect—consider, first, that some people—like me—can’t enjoy a “real” fireplace anyways.

My allergies actually make a fire pretty darn unenjoyable (the smoke bothers me a lot).

Actually, both the  Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology warn that studies have shown wood-burning fireplaces can pose significant health risks; writing, “Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you.”

On top of this, Wikipedia offers that in a literature review published in the journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, J.T. Zelikoff concludes that there are a wide variety of health risks posed by residential wood combustion. She writes

“With regard to adults, studies show that prolonged inhalation of wood smoke contributed to chronic bronchitis, chronic interstitial lung disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension and corpulmonale, and altered pulmonary immune defense mechanisms. While adverse effects on adults are notable, children appear to be at greatest risk. Many studies that focused specifically on RWC [Residential Wood Combustion] have concluded that young children living in homes heated by a wood-burning stove had a greater occurrence of moderate and severe chronic respiratory symptoms than children of the same age and sex who did not live in homes heated with a wood burning stove. Exposure of preschool children living in homes heated with wood burning stoves or in houses with open fireplaces yielded these effects: decreased pulmonary lung function in young ashtmatics; increased incidence of acute bronchitis and severity/frequency of wheezing and coughing; and increased incidence, duration, and possibly severity of acute respiratory infections.

Residential wood combustion emissions also contain sulfer oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and potentially carcinogenic compounds including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, formaldehyde and dioxins. Some of these pollutants are known to cause cancer but their effects on human health via exposure to wood smoke have not been extensively studied.”

Regardless of whether or not you enjoy a real-life wood-burning fire, take a peek at this funny and strangely snuggly alternative.

(I know that I, for one, can’t wait to show it to my husband when he comes home from work tonight.)


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Editor: Bryonie Wise


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