'Spare the Air' May Spare Our DNA

By RJ Middleton
|  Monday, Mar 14, 2011  |  Updated 11:15 AM PDT
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Smoke gently wafting from Bay area chimneys may seem like a homey throwback -- and even a green alternative -- for heating a home. That smoke could also be inhaled and, potentially, alter our DNA, according to SFGate.com.

The teeny specks, called particulate matter, can get deep into lungs -- much like car exhaust, tobacco smoke or smoke from wood-burning fires. A recent Danish study bears out the data.

One Canadian study indicates that "toddlers were significantly more likely to get ear infections if they lived in an area with a lot of wood stoves and fireplaces."

On March 1, the Bay's Spare the Air program -- a ban on burning wood -- was lifted. 

The Danes found that wood smoke particulates "were more powerful in damaging DNA, activating genes linked to disease and weakending immune response," according to the Gate.

So the 1.7 million wood-burning fireplaces can, legally, smoke if they gotta, but the rest of the Bay may not want to breathe deeply about it.

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