Residential indoor PM2.5 in wood stove homes: follow-up of the Libby changeout program


C. W. Noonan
Center for Environmental Health Sciences
Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences
The University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive Missoula, MT, USA
Tel.: (406)-243-4957
Fax: (406)-243-2807


Abstract  In 2005 through 2008, a small rural mountain valley community engaged in a woodstove changeout program to address concerns of poor ambient air quality. During this program, we assessed changes to indoor air quality before and after the introduction of a new, lower emission woodstove. We previously reported a >70% reduction in indoor PM2.5 concentrations in homes following the installation of a new Environmental Protection Agency’s-certified stove within the home. We report here on follow-up of the experiences in these and other homes over three winters of sample collection. In 21 homes, we compared pre-changeout PM2.5 concentrations [mean (s.d.) = 45.0 (33.0) μg/m3] to multiple post-changeout measures of PM2.5 concentrations using a DustTrak. The mean reduction (and 95% confidence interval) from pre-changeout to post-changeout was −18.5 μg/m3 (−31.9, −5.2), adjusting for ambient PM2.5, ambient temperature, and other factors. Findings across homes and across years were highly variable, and a subset of homes did not experience a reduction in PM2.5 following changeout. Reductions were also observed for organic carbon, elemental carbon, and levoglucosan, but increases were observed for dehydroabietic acid and abietic acid. Despite overall improvements in indoor air quality, the varied response across homes may be due to factors other than the introduction of a new woodstove.

Practical Implications

Biomass combustion is a common source of ambient PM2.5 in many cold-climate communities. The replacement of older model woodstoves with newer technology woodstoves is a potential intervention strategy to improve air quality in these communities. In addition to ambient air, woodstove changeouts should improve residential indoor air quality. We present results from a multi-winter study to evaluate the efficacy of woodstove changeouts on improving indoor air quality. Reductions in indoor PM2.5 were evident, but this observation was not consistent across all homes. These findings suggest that other factors beyond the introduction of an improved wood burning device are relevant to improving indoor air quality in wood burning homes.