Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 94, Issue 5, pp 372–376 | Cite as

Respiratory Symptoms and Exposure to Wood Smoke in an Isolated Northern Community

  • Michael Guggisberg
  • Patrick A. Hessel
  • Dennis Michaelchuk
  • Iqbal Ahmed



Wood smoke has been associated with respiratory symptoms. This study examined the prevalence of respiratory symptoms and health effects of wood smoke exposures (from home heating, curing meat, and tanning hides) among residents of Deline, Northwest Territories (NWT).


A survey was conducted of all residents. Relationships between wood smoke and respiratory symptoms were examined.


The response rate was 70.2% (n=402). 71% of people at least 18 years old were current smokers. Prevalence of symptoms was higher for women (odds ratios (ORs) 1.3−3.1). Women who smoked were more likely to be exposed to indoor smoke from curing and tanning. ORs for respiratory symptoms were higher for females, increased with age, and were strongly affected by smoking. Among those at least 18 years old, phlegm on winter mornings (6.5 (95% CI: 2.3−18.1)), dyspnoea (5.1 (95% CI: 1.9−13.2)), and watery or itchy eyes (3.6 (95% CI: 1.4−9.0)) were significantly related to self-reported outdoor wood smoke and smoke curing. Home heating was marginally associated with wheeze. No significant associations were found for males.


Women engaged in curing/tanning demonstrated increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms. The cultural importance of these activities precludes abandoning them. Smoking cessation, limiting wood smoke exposure times, and process modifications in curing and tanning could reduce risk of adverse health effects.



La fumée de bois est associée à divers symptômes d’atteinte de l’appareil respiratoire. Nous avons étudié la prévalence des symptômes respiratoires et les effets sur la santé de l’exposition à la fumée de bois (provenant du chauffage domestique, du fumage des viandes et du tannage des peaux) chez les résidants de Deline (Territoires du Nord-Ouest).


Sondage auprès de tous les résidants et examen des liens entre la fumée de bois et les symptômes respiratoires.


Le taux de réponse était de 70,2 % (n=402). Soixante-et-onze p. cent des personnes de 18 ans et plus étaient des fumeurs actuels. La prévalence des symptômes était supérieure chez les femmes (rapports de cotes [RC] de 1,3-3,1). Les fumeuses étaient aussi plus susceptibles d’être exposées à la fumée provenant du fumage et du tannage à l’intérieur des habitations. Les RC des symptômes respiratoires étaient supérieurs chez les femmes, augmentaient avec l’âge et étaient très influencés par le tabagisme. Chez les femmes de 18 ans et plus, la mucosité les matins d’hiver (6,5 [IC de 95 % = 2,3-18,1]), la dyspnée (5,1 [IC de 95 % = 1,9-13,2]) et le larmoiement ou les yeux qui piquent (3,6 [IC de 95 % = 1,4-9,0]) présentaient des liens significatifs avec la fumée de bois à l’extérieur et le fumage déclarés par les intéressées. Le chauffage domestique présentait un lien marginal avec la respiration sifflante. Aucune association significative n’a été constatée chez les hommes.


La prévalence des symptômes respiratoires était plus élevée chez les femmes qui s’adonnaient au fumage ou au tannage. L’importance culturelle de ces activités écarte la possibilité qu’elles soient abandonnées, mais le renoncement au tabac, la réduction des durées d’exposition à la fumée de bois et la modification des méthodes de fumage et de tannage pourraient réduire le risque d’effets indésirables sur la santé.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Guggisberg
    • 1
  • Patrick A. Hessel
    • 2
  • Dennis Michaelchuk
    • 2
  • Iqbal Ahmed
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesSwiss Federal Institute of TechnologySwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Public Health SciencesUniversity of AlbertaChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Richmond Health Sciences CentreRichmond, British ColumbiaUSA

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