Is smoke from a fireplace a health hazard for baby?

Q: I’ve been to a few parties this winter where I can smell smoke from a fire in the fireplace. I’ve read that breathing smoke can be harmful to a fetus. Is smoke from a fireplace dangerous during pregnancy?

A: Burning wood in the fireplace is generally safe during pregnancy¬†if the chimney is operating properly and carries away the majority of the smoke and carbon monoxide. But if there’s visible smoke, or it’s making you cough, I recommend that you leave the party, or at the very least crack open a window to allow fresh air in and make it easier for the fireplace to vent.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas formed by burning material. Excessive exposure is dangerous. In a study of pregnant women in Guatemala, those with daily exposure to wood smoke delivered babies whose birth weight was, on average, 2 ounces lower than the babies of pregnant women who weren’t exposed. And the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, nausea, fatigue – can all be mistaken for the flu this time of year.

Bottom line: smoke conditions will indicate a fireplace dangerous during pregnancy. Some common sense and awareness should alert you to possible danger.

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